Central London’s highest garden opens to the public at some point shortly, depending on which newspaper you read, even though in reality it is less a garden than a waiting area for a nearby restaurant.
Of course, I am talking about the Skygarden at the top of the poorly nicknamed Walkie-Talkie skyscraper, which was for a while more appropriately nicknamed the Fryscraper due to its tendency to focus light onto a patch of ground that could just about cook an egg.
Fried eggs probably won’t be on the menu at the semi-posh restaurant that is taking up residence at the top of the building, if only to avoid the pun-laden menu.
What will be on offer though is the potential, with a probably very long waiting list — for the general public to go to the top floor and have a look at the views — without forking out for a meal at the same time.
Quite how that works seems difficult to find out for a building which is due to open to the public tomorrow (FT) or next week (Guardian). What they do agree on is that we mere mortals will need to book at least three-days in advance for permission to ascend to the top of the building.
Sadly, if the first day is tomorrow, then no one will be going up there, as the booking page seems
conspicuous by its absence (see the edit below this article).
The original garden concept of a presumed row of grass terraces to lounge on is also now absent, having been replaced by a much smaller stepped terrace of managed planting to walk past and do not linger. Less garden and more restaurant.
The booking page will have to appear at some point though, as public access of some sort was a condition of the planning permission.
The planning permission is controversial due to the overwhelmingly unique shape of the building. I was wary at first, as often computer renders overplay the benefits of buildings, but this time I have been won around.
The detailing in the fins that run up the side help to thin down the design bulk while emphasizing the taper. I also prefer the newly added fins on the main side of the building to reduce its notorious solar-glare. In fact, I think they enhance the building which was a bit too much of a vast sheet of glass otherwise.
Obviously, the top of the building is defined architecturally by the curved roof which sits slightly apart from the rest of the structure.
Some (many) have bemoaned the impact of the building on the skyline, with views of Tower Bridge “ruined” by the new skyscraper — although if you take a photo of Tower Bridge from the other side, you get two rather ugly tower blocks in the background, which isn’t much of an improvement.
The building will be a marmite structure. I like it, many won’t.
The way it bulks up as the floors ascend is a consequence of financial constraints — higher floors command higher rents, and larger floors up high command even higher rents.
It’s almost fully let though, with most of the available space lower down, in the less desirable floors.
While most of the fuss will be about the top floor, I suspect that the majority of local workers will benefit far more from what happened at ground level.
The upside down taper of the design makes it top heavy, but also narrower at the base than the rectangular block it replaced. A narrow city pavement is now three times wider than it was in the past, and that is probably of more benefit to more people than the carefully controlled access to the Skygarden would ever be.
Edit — seems that the booking page is open, and has been for months… just that hardly anyone knows about it.