20 Fenchurch Street Walkie Talkie

Image credit: Loco Steve

It’s been dominating London’s skyline for a while now but – finally – on Monday, perhaps the most appealing aspect of 20 Fenchurch Street (more commonly known as “the walkie-talkie”), its ‘Sky Garden’ will be open to its first public visitors.

Billing itself as “London’s highest public park”, the garden taking up the top three floors of the Rafael Viñoly-designed building, was a key factor in securing planning permission and, understandably, this opening has been highly anticipated – after all, who wouldn’t want to enjoy those views? But it also attracted criticism because of the serious energy needed to maintain a garden at that height.

sky garden walkie talkie london

Image credit: Sky Garden

Now that the garden has welcomed its first visitors, the verdicts are in … and they are still mixed. The garden, designed by landscape architecture practice Gillespies, relies heavily on “drought resistant Mediterranean and South African species”, although probably the plants most suited to such extreme conditions, they perhaps haven’t produced the spectacular effect people have been anticipating. This review in the Guardian even suggests that the view itself isn’t so great (and also includes a mixed response from Peter Rees, formerly the City’s Chief planner).

Its definition of “public park” is also fairly questionable – visits have to be booked in advance and you’re limited to 1.5 hour slots. Visitors are also subject to airport style screening, including the restrictions on liquids (and therefore defying our usual park habit of turning up to a picnic pre-armed with booze). Oh, and unless you are frequenting one of their restaurants or bars, you get booted out by 6pm.

20 Fenchurch Street Modern architecture London

Image credit: Sky Garden

What do you think? Will you be planning a visit? If so, you can book your free slot here. At time of writing, January was already fully booked up, with February getting there fast….

And to find out more about London’s ever changing architecture, why not come on one of our Insider London modern architecture or sustainable architecture walking tours?