Oliver Wainwright reports on the opening of London’s newest, and highly controversial, skyscraper
It is hard to think of a more comically villainous building. It singes shopfronts and scorches cars, looming menacingly above the City of London like a broad-shouldered banker, squeezed into an ill-fitting pin-striped suit and barging into every view of the skyline. But Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie-Talkie was to have one redeeming feature: a magnificent public park at its summit, which planner Peter Rees called a ‘prow’ for viewing the City.
Now complete and open to the public (if you book three days in advance or reserve a table at one of three expensive ‘dining concepts’), what awaits at the 35th floor only adds insult to injury. Rather than the promised Babylonian sky garden, you are greeted by a distinctly meagre pair of rockeries, trapped beneath a hefty cage of steelwork, wrought with all the finesse of an airport terminal (a stark contrast to the airy open glade promised by the architect’s renderings). It is the mother of all generic office lobbies, jacked up in the air, with parapets and terraces so designed as to obscure much of the view.
And in a touch of accidental genius, the more you pay, the worse the view gets. At the very pinnacle of the dining ziggurat, you’re as far from the windows as possible, alone in a Portakabin with nothing but the mocking vista of a £50 steak.