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'Walkie-Talkie' Tower Roasts Competition For UK's Worst Building

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London's Walkie-Talkie building, left, took the prize this year for UK's worst building.
Frank Augstein, AP
London's Walkie-Talkie building, left, took the prize this year for UK's worst building.

It came as no surprise when a cartoonish, bulging skyscraper in London's financial district known as the "Walkie-Talkie" won this year's award for UK's worst new building. After a unanimous vote by a panel of architectural critics at Building Design Magazine, the building officially known as 20 Fenchurch Street took the 2015 Carbunkle Cup. A spoof on the prestigious Stirling Prize awarded to great architecture, the Carbuncle is instead handed to architectural blunders.

Since its completion last spring, the Walkie-Talkie has attracted a lot of heat. Literally.

The bulbous 37-story building has managed to melt cars and alter weather patterns, earning its place as the top blemish of London's skyline. The concave facade reflected enough sunlight to melt parts of a nearby Jaguar and proved hot enough to fry an egg, soon earning itself another nickname: the "Walkie-Scorchie." Shade structure was later added to the building's side to diffuse the sun rays.

Beyond roasting vehicles, reports The Guardian, the parabolic design has "blown away" Londoners with its chaotic wind patterns.

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"It's been accused of almost blowing pedestrians into the road and whisking food trolleys away this summer. The phenomenon has prompted the planners to introduce tougher guidelines and insist on independent wind studies."

The skyscraper, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, is a joint development project by property groups Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group.

"This isn't the first time that a building designed by architect Rafael Vinoly has been the focus of such heated attention," NPR's Mark Memmott reported last year. "In 2010, there were reports of melted cups, singed hair and other unusual events near the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas — another Vinoly building."

Ike Ijeh, architecture critic for Building Design, called the Fenchurch Street tower a disaster to London and thinks that city planners are as much to blame as Vinoly.

"If anything summarises what makes a building a Carbuncle, this is it," Ijeh writes in a post for Building Design.

A nondescript YMCA building and a faux-gothic University of Cambridge building also made for stiff competition in this year's contest. Last year's Woolwich Central housing and supermarket development took the Carbuncle for its "oppressive" military-like features.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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