20 Fenchurch Street

In 2004, the British developer Land Securities held a design competition for a high-performance, energy-efficient building to replace an obsolete office tower in London’s emerging “Eastern Cluster” high-rise commercial development area. The winning design by Rafael Viñoly Architects breaks with the perceived boundaries of common architectural expression for clear reasons: the floor plates widen at the top of the building instead of the bottom, adding incremental public space at ground level, providing extra leasable floor area on the valuable upper stories, and generating a large public Skygarden at the pinnacle of the building.

The building form is drawn back from its maximum possible footprint to mirror the city street pattern while simultaneously establishing a visual connection to the emerging cluster of high-rises, receding from nearby historic buildings, and opening views through the site to contribute to the immediate public realm. 

The pocket park at the base of the building’s southern elevation provides a public gathering place and pedestrian paths through the site. To the south, a low-rise annex defines the boundary of the pocket park and houses a small restaurant that draws visitors inside the plaza and enlivens the space. The annex also provides access to the loading docks and other service areas below grade.

Vertical louvers provide sun shading on the east and west elevations, following the fanning form and organic curves of the building as they open out and wrap over the roof and Skygarden. The north and south elevations feature extensive glazing to maximize views. On the southern elevation, the concave form and horizontal elements help to provide shade. And on the northern elevation, a cable-structured curtain wall, hung from the roof louvers arching above, is defined by a large urban window spanning the three levels of the Skygarden.

The Skygarden tops the building with London’s first publicly accessible skyscraper observation deck—a dramatic, multistory space that features landscaping, cafés, and expansive, 360-degree views of the city. Accessed through a separate lobby and dedicated elevators, the Skygarden will be open to the public 365 days a year.

“London today is one of the most interesting architectural laboratories in recent history,” says Rafael Viñoly. “We designed 20 Fenchurch Street to respect the city’s historic character, following the contour of the river and the medieval streets that bound the site, while further contributing to the evolution of the high-rise building type.”


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