Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Case Studies

The Walkie Talkie Tower: ‘Unsophisticated’ and ‘Bloated’ Skyscraper

walkie Talkie Tower

20 Fenchurch Street is the actual name of the popular skyscraper located in London. Due to its shape, the building looks like “The Walkie Talkie Tower”. The architect of this 38 storeyed building is architect Rafael Viñoly. It is a top-heavy building that curves out upward and outward. The bar and eateries are on the 35th – 37th floors. The building was formerly visualized to be nearly 200m, but the concerns about its visual influence on the actual structures in the region resulted in scaling it down. Even after the height problem was fixed, there were a lot of other matters concerning its surroundings, which led to consequent public inquiries. In 2015, the structure was honored the Carbuncle Cup for The Worst New Building in the UK

Walkie Talkie Tower Case study

It sometimes occurs that designers overlook or wrongly estimate some circumstances while designing, which results in a poor, non-functional building, which can cause harm to their surroundings. The idea that an architect has for a structure, may not always render into reality. The architect’s responsibility is to ensure the building communicates positively with its site surroundings. If a building is big enough to be an icon for an area or a city, then it tends to explain it negatively. One such structure is the Walkie Talkie Tower in London.

The Walkie Talkie building, London ©Google images

The issues leading to controversy regarding the Walkie Talkie Tower:

1. Solar glare:

This issue provided the building alternate names such as “Walkie- Scorchie” and “Fryscraper”. While the building’s development was going on, it was discovered that when the sun shines directly onto the building for up to 120 minutes, the building’s façade acts as a concave mirror and focuses light on the southern streets. Temperature readings at street level at the particular points ranged from 91 °C to 117 °C. During the summer of 2013, a reflection of a beam six times brighter than direct sunlight focussed on the streets below truly damaged parked vehicles. It made the bodywork of some vehicles melt. One of the owners had to be paid an amount of £946 from the developers for repairs of his car. A reporter from City A.M – Jim Waterson set a pan on the ground and succeeded to fry an egg!

Working towards interim solutions: In September 2013, the City of London Corporation was planning on erecting temporary screening on the streets. In addition, they installed a permanent cover In 2014, on the south side of the building. 

Also Read: Capital Gate Tower by RMJM: A structural marvel

The solar glare issue ©google images

2. Sky Garden: 

The sky garden consists of the top three floors (36, 37, and 38), which are to be a vast and free public viewing space. 1 and a half hour slots are available for free entrance, which must be booked 3 days prior. These conditions become the topic for criticism. Also, the accomplishment of the garden failed to meet the pre-construction imagination and expectations. In July 2015, it was determined that the landscape architect’s changes were not added to the design of the garden.

The Walkie Talkie Tower by Rafael Viñoly Architects: 'Unsophisticated 'and 'Bloated' Skyscraper - Sheet3
The Sky Garden ©google images

Also Read: Top 10 Iconic Buildings in the World

3. Wind tunnel:  

This building faced another criticism – unexpected wind draughts at the street -level. The wind evaluation plan differed from the actual situation post-construction. The down draughts spreading from the tower are strong enough to knock people over on the streets. 

The Walkie Talkie Tower by Rafael Viñoly Architects: 'Unsophisticated 'and 'Bloated' Skyscraper - Sheet4
The wind draught problem ©google images

The skyscraper is very massive and bulky. The architect pretends to have known and identified some of the issues during the initial design stages. But said he required the proper tools and software to analyze the effects that the building would generate. When the issues were identified on a second design discussion, the temperature was calculated to be about 36 degrees. In reality, it turned out to be double of it. Another name of this building is also a “Death Ray”. The architect also pushes some of the blame on global warming, saying it wasn’t so hot when he came to London years ago. This is not the first time that the architect has faced this particular issue.

His other project, a hotel called Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, has been reported to have the same reflection and heat issues. In addition, the architect should turn away from the curvilinear/concave-shaped architecture. 

The Walkie Talkie Tower by Rafael Viñoly Architects: 'Unsophisticated 'and 'Bloated' Skyscraper - Sheet5
The solar glare melted cars on the street ©google images
The Walkie Talkie Tower by Rafael Viñoly Architects: 'Unsophisticated 'and 'Bloated' Skyscraper - Sheet6
A news reporter frying an egg on the street in the heat spot ©google images

Architecture is a profession in which there is certain creative freedom for experimentation. The project has to be a collaboration between the clients, architects, engineers, landscape consultants researchers, and data analysts. Many factors such as budget reduction, unexpected contextual changes, over or underestimating some site conditions all result in poor design execution. As a result, this causes harmful interaction of the building with its surroundings. And unnecessary corrections to the façade of the structure or the adjacent streets/ buildings.

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