I was a bit dubious when Yannick suggested going to see the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building on a rather grey December day. I’d seen all those lovely sunny photos people had taken back in the summer and I couldn’t help feeling we just weren’t going to get the right light. But you know what? We got something just as interesting – an atmospheric smoky glow with a charm all its own. Plus a bonus as the early sunset showed us the garden after dark as well.
The Walkie Talkie building is at 20 Fenchurch Street in the City, right next to Leadenhall Market. It’s the proud winner of the 2015 Carbuncle Cup for the worst building of the year, which may have something to do with the odd shape that gives it its nickname, or possibly its tendency to melt cars in the summer by concentrating the sun’s rays into heat beams (said to have been fixed now).
The outside may not have much appeal, but the garden inside, which is free to visit, is so popular they issue timed tickets for entry. You queue to go up in a high speed lift to the thirty fifth floor, where there’s a café, a restaurant, a big terrace and of course the garden.
Cue more controversy. The garden is not that big. There was a lot of criticism when it first opened that it was smaller than the plans had claimed it would be, and there’s still a risk that they’ll have to rebuild it to meet the original specifications. But even at this size it has the wow factor as it’s planted on a steep slope reaching up over three floors with a stairway leading upwards at either side.
It’s a new garden and will take time to grow to its full extent.
It turns dramatic when darkness falls and the space looks like a settlement an alien planet.
The lights of the city reflect up into the glass and steel of the structure.
At the top you can look out over iconic city buildings like the Gherkin.
So, forget, if you can, all the criticism. The Sky Garden is a lot of fun to visit – you can get a coffee and stay for hours if you like, safe from the weather and the winds that controversially whistle around the base. And you can’t see the building from inside.