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Northern powerhouse law firm stands by London’s ‘ugliest’ building

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“Walkie Talkie” is now officially the City’s biggest eyesore, but DWF lawyers still love it

walkietalkie

Trying to find a Londoner with something good to say about the lump of lard, steel and glass monstrosity at 20 Fenchurch Street is about as easy as putting your hand to a real Cockney these days.

Colloquially known as the “Walkie Talkie”, the 37-storey, 525 ft office block has had a chequered history since its doors were flung open about a year ago.

The building’s bizarre concave design has reflected dangerous levels of heat onto the pavements below; it has been blamed for creating hurricane-style gusts throughout the Square Mile; and its rooftop Sky Garden has been pilloried for being little more than a marketing wheeze that it open to the public in the same way as is the Ritz Hotel.

And now the WT has won Building Design magazine’s Carbuncle Cup award. As the name suggests, it is not a prize that the architect, Uruguayan Rafael Viñoly, will be proudly displaying on his mantelpiece.

Instead, the Carbuncle Cup effectively goes to London’s ugliest building. A distinction that will undoubtedly trigger bemusement round the management committee table at northern powerhouse law firm DWF.

So far, the Mancunian firm — which has 13 outposts across Britain and Ireland — is the only legal practice to move into the Walkie Talkie, although the London office of Houston-based Vinson & Elkins is understood to be taking space shortly.

DWF moved its London mob into the Walkie T last September. A year ago, the firm’s big-wigs had nothing but praise for what has since become one of the capital’s most hated landmarks.

The building “offers unrivalled panoramic views across London,” gushed a DWF statement at the time. Indeed, managing partner and chief executive Andrew Leaitherland went further. The skyscraper provided, he said:

An exceptional working environment. It’s a flexible space designed to encourage agile working, teamwork and great client interaction.

Fast-forward a year and Leaitherland’s mob is housed in a building about which one Building Design commentator lamented:

I now have a new personal goal: to live long enough to see this building demolished.

The notoriety of the Walkie Talkie makes the Manchester firm look a bit like over-excited provincial visitors to “The Smoke”, paying touts over the odds for restricted view tickets to “Mama Mia”, when they could have picked them up at the half-price box.

Having said that, it is far more likely that the canny northerners actually bagged a deal. Media reports indicate that rents in London’s biggest eyesore go for about £69 per square foot — at least six quid more than the City average.

However, while the firm itself will not comment, City scuttlebutt suggests that DWF negotiated a very favourable tenancy deal. So perhaps the partners were not simply dazzled by the hype.

And on the aesthetic point, a firm spokeswoman quipped:

It’s such a shame those outside of the building don’t like it, because for us it’s an incredible location and space and the views over the City are stunning.

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To prove the point, she sent Legal Cheek a snap shot photo from her office (pictured above). But does it beat the firm’s HQ in Scott Place in Manchester’s Hardman Street?

10 Comments

Anonymous

If anything DWF have done the most sensible thing……rent space in the building so they don’t have to look at it!

Although it isn’t the prettiest, the views are fantastic….

(18)(1)

Ballz

Doesn’t surprise me – many firms would love to have a glamorous office in the skyscraper such as the WT.

The Carbuncle Cup is nothing less than a gimmick for all those morons in Building Design who’d rather have Wren’s baroque churches all across the city and workers toil in two-storey brick factory halls than efficient high-rises. Bunch of flaccid morons.

(8)(5)

Anonymous

No, the Carbuncle Cup is taken very seriously by architects. The panel do not prefer Victorian architecture, just do a very good job every year of rooting out ugly new buildings.

The Walkie Talkie is an awful eyesore. Compare it to other newish sky scrapers which fit in to the skyline and are pleasing on the eye – the Shard, Cheesegrater, Heron Tower, Gherkin, etc.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

The Carbuncle Cup goes to BRITAIN’S ugliest building, not London’s.

So even worse.

The award is fully deserved, now let’s do the right thing and order the demolition of the Walkie Talkie with a more sympathetic building to go in its place. Preferably while all the hooray Henrys are in the Sky Garden.

(2)(2)

Tory votah Tarquin

Someone’s jelly he couldn’t get on the guestlist. Poor pleb.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

It’s very easy to get in without being on any guest list.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

To be fair I can think of many, many uglier buildings. About half of the buildings in my home town are awful concrete monstrosities, and even in nice cities there are plenty of disgusting slabs of nothing. The Student Union in Durham, for instance, not only looks worse than the WT but also ruins a beautiful part of the river bank. Yet that won architectural awards…

The WT is a big glass tower and it looks pretty much like most other big glass towers. It’s not THAT bad.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Hell of a view over London. Better to be looking out than into the walkie talkie.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

If anything, the planners deserve the building they got.

The WT was originally planned to be taller and slimmer (more elegant)……but planners argued about its impact on St Pauls Cathedral so the WT had to be shorter.

Ironically, their aim to lessen the WT’s impact has in fact worsened its impact.

But anyway, skyscrapers in general are hardly “pretty” they are there for a purpose. Look at the buildings in Canary Wharf “One Canada Square”, not pretty and a boring shape, but its purpose is served. The WT, not pretty, but its shape isn’t boring and it serves its purpose. Also, the Heron Tower pleasing on the eye? You mean the tall glass building that looks like most other tall glass buildings…….

London’s skyline is changing quickly, although the WT stands out now because of its prime position near the river, it won’t stand out forever as London’s skyline expands.

(3)(0)

Wakeywakey

I work for DWF and whilst not based in the WT, I visit regularly. To me, it looks quite nice from the outside, I never considered it ugly at all, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Inside though the building is stunning and views incredible. Visitors love to walk around, admiring the different views, it beats the London Eye for example. I’d recommend applying for Skygarden tickets and visiting, it’s great, and the not too badly priced bistro restaurant is pretty good up there.

(0)(0)

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