Not many buildings can melt cars and blow people over, but London’s ‘Death Ray’ Walkie Talkie certainly can. The ‘deadly’ 160-meter tall office tower, officially known as 20 Fenchurch Street, just won the 2015 Carbuncle Cup for worst UK building. We’d feel sorry for the unusually shaped building, but the ‘Death Ray’ truly has earned its name—in 2013, the top-heavy glass skyscraper was nicknamed “Walkie-Scorchie” for melting a luxury car on the pavement and setting carpets on fire from reflected glare. Just last month, the building made headlines for creating ferocious wind tunnels that knock pedestrians off their feet. Incredible, isn’t it?
The annual Carbuncle Cup is organized by the Building Design (BD) magazine and is awarded to the worst new building in Britain. Readers of BD are invited to nominate their most hated buildings to a jury, chaired by BD editor Thomas Lane, that then determines the short-list of six and the winner. The “oppressive” Woolwich Central development won 2014’s Carbuncle Cup.
Walkie Talkie skyscraper, which was completed in April 2014, was announced by BD as this year’s winner with the harsh title “It should never have been built.” Designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly for a cost of over £200 million, the 27-story Walkie Talkie was criticized by Lane as “an unwelcome party guest” that “crashes into London’s skyline.” He added that it was hard to find anything positive to say about the building. Juror and BD architecture critic Ike Ijeh called the tower “a gratuitous glass gargoyle graffitied onto the skyline of London,” while fellow juror and architectural designer Eleanor Jolliffe likened the Walkie Talkie to a “Bond villain tower, as it could melt your car with a solar beam from space.”
The controversial building features a glass concave form that widens as it reaches the top. It’s an unusual shape that’s drawn criticism not just for its looks, but also for causing unexpected mayhem in the streets of London. While it was still under construction, the Walkie Talkie earned the nickname Death Ray for scorching cars, setting carpets on fire, and smoldering front doors. The concave shape was found to have channeled the sun’s rays into concentrated ultra-hot light beams, similar to the way a magnifying glass works. Developers responded by outfitting the skyscraper with sunshades. Recently, however, the Walkie Talkie made news again for creating violent wind draughts at street-level.
The Walkie Talkie beat out nominations that included the Woodward Hall development in North Acton, the Whittle Building at the University of Cambridge, the Waltham Forest YMCA building, Southampton’s City Gateway project and the Parliament House tower in Lambeth.
Images via 20 Fenchurch Street, Wikimedia