At the end of the summer each year, we try to spend a few days in London. The South Bank is our favourite haunt. The opening photos of the city’s financial district, above and below, were taken from a point adjacent to the Globe Theatre, overlooking the Thames, and looking northwards.

This year the trip was set up by our goddaughter, Karen, who had booked a special ‘no-cost’ excursion to visit the Sky Garden, atop the controversial tower block on Fenchurch Street, close to the Bank of England – see photos above and below.

(Above: The City from the South Bank )

The odd-shaped tower block – background right – is the building in question. Its name is simply The Fenchurch. It’s also known, irreverently, as the ‘Walkie- Talkie’. Those who remember the first generation of mobile phones may want to add a third moniker…

(Above: Fenchurch Street: approaching No 20! Not quite how it used to be…)

Despite this, the Fenchurch holds a delightful surprise on its rooftop, as Karen had discovered.

But it’s a long way up!

(Above: The entrance to The Fenchurch – all 38 storeys, 525 ft tall. You can just see the curve at the top)

Designed by architect Rafael Vinōly and costing over £200 million, 20 Fenchurch Street features a highly distinctive top-heavy form which appears to burst upward and outward. The entrance floor and 34 floors of office space are topped by a large viewing deck on three levels. A bar and restaurants are included on the 35th, 36th and 37th floors; these are open to the public but with restrictions, and only via bookings.

(Above: the mighty River Thames

When you exit the lift, you enter a world filled with light and with breathtaking views all around.

(Above: the top three floors of The Fenchurch are a garden, cafe and restaurant)

Construction was begun in January 2009 and completed in April 2014. From the visitor perspective, the jewel of the building is definitely in the crown… But the only way to appreciate that is to share the views:

(Above: The Thames)

The tower block was originally proposed at nearly 200 m (656 ft) tall, but its design was scaled down after concerns about its visual impact on the nearby St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

(Above: The Bank of England)

It was subsequently approved in 2006 with the revised height but even after the height reduction there were continued concerns from heritage groups about its impact on the surrounding area. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelley, called in the project for another public enquiry. 

(Below, there are some strange geometries!)

The project was consequently the subject of a public inquiry; in 2007 this ruled in the developers’ favour and the building was granted full planning permission.

(Above: St Pauls far below, using as much zoom as the iPhone can muster)

 In 2015 it was awarded the ‘Carbuncle Cup’ for the worst new building in the UK in the previous 12 months. Architecture can be a savage business!

In 2013 Paul Finch of the Design Council CABE said he regretted supporting the project during the public inquiry, saying that the developers “made a mess of it” and were architects of their own misfortune.

(Above: Equally ‘odd’ neighbours. There is a touch of ‘Alice in the Sky’ about the whole thing…)

Strange times… But then opinion has always wavered… Being there, on the top floor amidst all the natural light, you can only see the beauty of the conception. We loved it…

(Note: some of the historical text in this blog was sourced from Wikipedia)

©Stephen Tanham 2022.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

12 Comments on “City Sky Garden

  1. Shame you didn’t reference the melted Lamborghini and its brief renamed moniker of the Scorchie Talkie… but I agree I love London and it’s asymmetrical skyline. Yes it is is Alice in the Sky in its pomposity ego and chutzpah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Geoff – when I first read that, I thought you meant a cocktail in the classy but expensive bar! I was quite proud of ‘Alice in the sky’, I have to admit… 😎

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love London I love the mix of ancient and modern…I love the Gherkin not sure about this but seeing the reality may cause me to change my mind …its certainly a talking point 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have recently got back from the Uk but didn’t get that far North…my mother and daughter were my main focus but in Feb(although)they will still be I hope to travel further how far up North are you? x

    Liked by 1 person

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