London's Walkie Talkie building is officially the worst

Winning. Image: Diego Delso at Wikimedia Commons.

It's that time of year again: architectural critics around the country have been holding their breath for the announcement of this year's Carbuncle Cup winner. The award is given to the new(ish) building or project voted the worst by a panel of judges selected by Building Design magazine, including architects and architectural critics.

Today, it was announced that this year's wooden spoon goes to 20 Fenchurch Street, also (un)affectionately known as the "Walkie Talkie".

Its triumph comes as no surprise: besides being, in our opinion, very ugly, it also managed to literally melt parts of vehicles parked below it, thanks to the reflection when the sun shines directly onto the building (a permanent awning has since been installed to curb the glare). Oh, and the design has also created a wind tunnel around the base of the building.

In summary, as Thomas Lane, chairman of the judging panel, said: "It is a challenge finding anyone who has something positive to say about this building." It was designed by Uraguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, and is actually a scaled down version of original designs which were changed so as not to block views of St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. 

Also on the list were the Whittle Building at Cambridge's Peterhouse College:

Image: Arkracer at Wikimedia Commons.

Southampton's City Gateway building:

Waltham Forest's prison-like YMCA; and Parliament House in Lambeth.

While the competition is inherently a little silly in nature, it has a serious side to it. A piece on the Building Design website today claims that the Walkie Talkie should "never have been built", and blames not the architects so much as planning system itself:

How many architects have endured the familiar frustration of having minor planning applications refused on the grounds “overbearing scale” or “unacceptable detriment to local character”? And yet here we have the determining planning authority... concluding that the proposals would cause “significant visual harm” and still granting permission. Inconsistency has always been a woeful component of the planning process but the extent to which it corrodes the entire system, as disastrously demonstrated by the Walkie Talkie, is a scandal of MPs’ expenses proportions.


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.