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20 Fenchurch Street

20 Fenchurch Street (118)

This iconic, 37-story, 160-metre-high office skyscraper is located in the heart of London's financial district. It was designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and construction was completed in April 2014. Despite being baptized as 20 Fenchurch Street it has earned the nickname "Walkie-Talkie" due to its distinctive shape, which widens the higher you go and is reminiscent of an old portable handset. 

One of the main attractions of this skyscraper is the garden/viewing-area located on the upper floors, which is known as the Sky Garden and is the highest garden in the city. And that's not all – the three floors occupied by the Sky Garden also house a wooded area that offers wonderful views of the city in addition to two restaurants and two bars.

The original design of the building, with its characteristic concave shape, has not been exempt from controversy. According to experts the concave design makes the windows act as huge magnifying glasses, increasing the temperature at the focal points by more than 20 degrees. One anecdote that went viral was the appearance of a partially melted Jaguar in a street close to the building. However, this happened in 2013, when the building was still under construction. The summer that year was hotter than usual and the temperature at the focal points of the heat caused by the rebound effect from the tower windows came to exceed 70° C - far higher than that predicted the architect, who estimated it could reach 36° C. A cafeteria located in one of these focal points even managed to toast a baguette and fry an egg outside the premises. As a result 20 Fenchurch Tower was renamed the "Fryscraper" for its unique ability to melt car bodywork, bend bicycle wheels and basically turn the surrounding streets into a large frying pan. 

When asked what had failed in the design the architect tried to eschew liability, arguing that everything was due to global warming, as the first time he came to London he could have counted the sunny days on the fingers of one hand, whereas now they were far more common. A surprising response from the architect that left many flabbergasted.

The architect now has a history of designing buildings that burn. The Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas has a similar concave shape and focussed so much sunlight on the terrace pool that it melted the deck chairs and singed the guests' hair. 

Anyhow, back to Fenchurch. Finally, in May 2014, the problem was resolved by placing anti-reflective screens at the top of the building. Even this, however, would not save the famous Walkie-Talkie from winning the 2015 Carbuncle Cup, an award for the ugliest building in Britain conferred by the architecture magazine Building Design. What about you? Would you give it the award?

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