London's car-melting skyscraper wins Carbuncle Cup

By Estelle Shirbon
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Sunlight is reflected from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London

Sunlight is reflected from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - A London skyscraper that made headlines for reflecting sunlight at an intensity that melted parts of a Jaguar car in the street below has been awarded the annual Carbuncle Cup that highlights perceived architectural horrors.

Officially called 20 Fenchurch Street, the 37-storey office tower in the City of London financial district was nicknamed the Walkie Talkie due to its curved shape before the car-melting incident in 2013 spawned a new moniker, the Walkie Scorchie.

Organized by Business Design magazine, the Carbuncle Cup is awarded by a panel of architecture critics who take into account comments sent in by readers. This year's prize went to the Walkie Scorchie by a unanimous decision of the judges.

One of them, Ike Ijeh, said City of London planners were as much to blame for approving what he described as "a gratuitous glass gargoyle graffitied onto the skyline of London" as the building's renowned Uruguayan architect, Rafael Vinoly.

"If anything summarizes what makes a building a Carbuncle, this is it," Ijeh wrote in an article on Business Design's website.

Judges complained that the top-heavy building, whose upper floors are bigger than its base thanks to its unusual flared design, was an eyesore.

Then there was the problem with the south-facing concave facade, which, while unfinished, concentrated the sun's rays so that it warped the wing mirror, panels and badge on a Jaguar parked down below.

Local business owners reported carpet burns and paint damage to their shops while TV crews filmed an egg being fried in the reflected sun beams. The facade was later fitted with horizontal fins to diffuse the sun's rays.

Building Design also reported that there had been complaints about high winds at the building's base, and that the Sky Garden on top of the building had been criticized as too bland and failing to match the original design.

The building was developed by a joint venture between construction and property groups Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group.

Emails seeking comment from Vinoly's practice and from Canary Wharf Group were not immediately answered. A spokeswoman for Land Securities declined to comment.

Launched in 2006 as a humorous counterpart to the prestigious Stirling Prize for good architecture, the Carbuncle Cup has been awarded to a variety of projects across Britain.

Past winners range from a ferry terminal in Liverpool to a media complex in Salford, near Manchester, to the renovation of the Cutty Sark ship in London.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)