While recent years have seen the creation of a number of roof gardens across London, the Sky Garden – located atop the controversial ‘Walkie Talkie’ building (otherwise known as 20 Fenchurch Street) – has the honour of being the highest public garden in the city.
The three floor garden, which was designed by landscape architecture practice Gillespie’s, opened in January, 2015.
Located on the 36th to 38th floors, it was designed to provide 360 degree views across London and features landscaped gardens, observation decks, an open air terrace (named for the late architectural townscape advisor Francis Golding) and five bars and restaurants.
The gardens include flowering plants such as the African Lily (Agapanthus), Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) and Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) as well as fragrant herbs such as French Lavender.
WHERE: Sky Garden (via 1 Sky Garden Walk) (nearest Tube station is Monument); WHEN: 10am to 6pm weekdays; 11am to 9pm weekends; COST: Free (but rebooking required); WEBSITE: https://skygarden.london.
Nick-named the ‘Walkie Talkie’ due to its distinctive, top-heavy, bulbous shape, 20 Fenchurch Street is a 38 storey building in the City of London.
Completed in early 2014 after a five year build with the public access areas opening the following year, the building contains 690,000 square feet of office space with the top three floors – reached by an express lift – housing a “sky garden” – described as the city’s “highest public garden” – with specially planted terraces as well as bars, restaurants and a public viewing deck.
Designed by New York City-based Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, the 160 metre high building was controversial from the get-go, both for its impact on the skyline and surrounding streetscapes but also for the way its exterior cladding acted as a concave mirror and focused intense light on streets which lay to the south.
The heat was so intense that it damaged parked cars, leading some wags to dub it the ‘Walkie-Scorchie’ or ‘Fryscraper’, while a newspaper reporter famously fried an egg on the pavement below to demonstrate just how hot it was getting down there. Permanent sun shading was subsequently installed on the tower to deal with the issue.
The building was awarded the dreaded Carbuncle Cup in 2015, an annual award given to the ugliest building of the year, with one of the judges describing it as a “Bond villain tower” and another as a “gratuitous glass gargoyle”.
The building, which continues to draw strong opinions, was reportedly sold last year for a record £1.3 billion.
WHERE: 20 Fenchurch Street (nearest Tube station is Monument); WHEN: Visiting hours for the Sky Garden are 10am to 6pm weekdays and 11am to 9pm weekends (only a limited number of tickets available each day); COST: Free; WEBSITE: https://skygarden.london
There’s a couple of alternate theories for the origins of this City of London street’s name.
Running between Gracechurch Street to the west and Aldgate to the east, Fenchurch Street isn’t actually home to Fenchurch Street Station (one of the four Monopoly board stations!) – that’s located in adjoining Fenchurch Place. And for good measure, there’s also a nearby Fenchurch Avenue.
The name apparently relates to a church that once stood here, known as St Gabriel Fenchurch. The fen part of the name is believed to either stand for what may have been nearby ‘fens’ – that is, swampy or marshy ground – related to the now lost Langbourn River once located here or for faenum, a Latin word for hay which may have referred to a nearby haymarket.
The church, which is known to have existed from at least the 14th century and stood between Rood and Mincing Lanes, burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was not rebuilt but merged into the parish of St Margaret Pattens (there’s a plaque marking its site in Fenchurch Street opposite Cullum Street – we’ll have a look at the church in more detail in a later Lost London entry).
Landmarks in the street include Lloyd’s Register of Shipping at number 71 (a Grade II-listed building dating from 1901) and the somewhat controversial tower at 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building.