Opening of the Sky Garden – 12 January 2015


The Public Space at Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Building in London



I was honored to be present the morning of 12 January Monday for the opening of the public space atop our friend Rafael Viñoly’s great new building in London, 20 Fenchurch.  This unusual but beautiful 37 story building gracefully curves outward as it rises, creating a vast three story public space at its summit.  Some of its elegantly curving surfaces are convex, others are concave; but the building has an overall sweep that increases its floor area as it soars upward from its relatively narrow base.





Unlike the tiny Viewing Gallery of “The Shard,” Renzo Piano’s inwardly tapering pyramid nearby, The Sky Garden atop Rafael’s building is completely free to the public (the Viewing Gallery of “The Shard” costs a hefty £25 per person)—although it is necessary to book reservations in advance—and far in advance, at this point—in order to visit. The bookings, while totally free, are very hard to get at the moment, as this is a fabulous place to visit.  One books a reservation online.  Another way to see the space is to book a reservation at one of the three venues of the Sky GardenDarwin Brasserie, Fenchurch Seafood Bar and Grill or the Sky Pod Bar (described in detail later in this piece)—which do not require booking a free visit reservation.  They, too, are hard reservations to come by at this point, unfortunately.  This amazing public space has an enormous 45,000 ft2 of floor space, with incredible 360o views of London.  Below is the view from the outside on the 35th floor exterior observation deck of the Sky Garden, looking south toward “The Shard.”





The opening ceremony took place in the east garden of the Sky Garden–there are two symmetrical gardens on opposite sides of the space, lining the stairways that rise along the east and west exterior faces of the building, each planted with sun-loving plant species (including African Lily, Red Hot Poker and Bird of Paradise, as well as fragrant herbs such as French Lavender and Rosemary).  Rafael Viñoly is visible in the center of the foreground of the picture below:





Lord Mayor of the City of London officially opened the space, with Robert Noel (CEO of Land Securities Group) and George Iacobescu (CEO of Canary Wharf Group) to his right, below.  The ceremony concluded with them planting a Malaysian Loquat Eriobotrya tree in the garden.


Lprd Mayor



Later that afternoon, I returned to the building with Nancy and our friends Linda Brimm and Hallie Detrick to show them the space.  Here is the entry level southern lobby on the 35th floor, looking eastward to where the ceremony had been that morning:





We walked up the east staircase.  The photograph below is looking down from the 36th floor level, through the garden, toward the entry level:


down the stairs



Just for fun, here’s a shot I took in May of 2013 of almost exactly the same spot, when the building was under construction:





Here, from the 37th floor level, is the view looking down toward the southeast, with a view of the Thames and Tower Bridge to the left:


bridge and rive



And, for the engineering fanatics among you, here is a construction photograph of one of the vertical members being prepared to receive its curved, horizontal member:





Here (in the one photograph not taken by me) is the view of the central three story structure in the midst of the Sky Garden, flanked by the two gardens.  There is a spacious bar, Sky Pod | Seasons In The Sky, on the 35th floor entry level (and the entrance to the entire space of the Sky Garden is on this level, through the doors visible to the right of the west garden) which inhabits the entry level lobby; above it on the 36th floor (the glass enclosed form cantilevered out over the entrance) is the Darwin Brasserie; and on the top level is Fenchurch, with both an outdoor terrace and a luxurious interior space.


Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie

This photograph by Edmund Summer of de zeen magazine


Details about these three venues, run by “rhubarb” follow:


20 Fenchurch Street has a new office tower designed by renowned architect Rafael Viñoly. The building has 37 storeys and “rhubarb” will occupy the top three levels as well as the public space know as Sky Garden which provides 45,000 sq ft of high level amenity space with 360 degree panoramic views of London. There are three dedicated events spaces available for hire at Sky Garden on Levels 35, 36 and 37 as well as two restaurants and a private dining room. The capacities range from 16 to 250 guests with the option to hire the entire venue with a capacity for 450 guests.


Sky Pod | Seasons In The Sky on Level 35 –  takes “bringing the outdoors in” one step further by being London's first truly seasonally-changing bar. Inspired by the four seasons, in autumn and winter months guests can enjoy delicious hot cocktails on sofas adorned with faux furs and cashmere blankets. It is an elegant, chic winter experience set against the breath-taking backdrop of our very fine capital. Come spring and summer, discerning drinkers can soak up sunshine, style and tropical gardens in the heart of the City. Think stylish deck chairs, boozy ice cream pop-ups, refreshing aperitifs and light bites at the bar.


Darwin Brasserie on Level 36 – an accessible brasserie offering classic European cuisine using the finest seasonal ingredients. The concept is inspired by nature and the setting is modern and stylish. A semi-exposed kitchen and large bar provide food theatre.


Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill on Level 37 – a timeless seafood bar and grill that exudes traditional charm and taste with a modern twist. Serving the finest seafood such as oysters, fish and crustacean from responsibly caught sources as well as seasonal game, meat and vegetarian dishes.


Reservation Line: 0333 772 0020


Information email:



Bookings at these venues can be hard to come by (so plan in advance!); but Rafael arranged for the four of us to have tea at Fenchurch that afternoon.  Here is the outside terrace (well, inside the building, outside the restaurant) in front of Fenchurch:


cocktails outside Darwin



And we had a quite lovely high tea there, with some of the greatest views imaginable right from our table:


at tea



There is a lovely private dining room at Fenchurch, wonderfully called “The Viñoly Room”:


vinoly rm



Here is the view from inside the entrance to Fenchurch, looking out onto its terrace, as evening began to fall:


inside Darwin rm



And here, the view looking back into the restaurant from its terrace:





Below is the view from that terrace looking down on the entry level of the Sky Garden, and the Thames and London Bridge to the south of the building:


down to front-evbe



From the 37th floor level, behind the restaurant, is the evening view to the north, with Richard Rogers’ Leadenhall Building (“The Cheese Grater Building”) and Norman Foster’s Swiss Re (“The Gherkin”):


Gerk & Grater-eve



Below is the evening view from the 37th floor level to the west—beautiful as the lights of the city emerge (although this may be one of the most fabulous views in the daylight, as the entire fabric of this part of London is powerfully observable from this height in the daytime):


stairs west-eve



And, again for fun, here’s a shot of the same spot I took in May of 2013, when the building was under construction, in which the texture of the city of which I was speaking above is very much in evidence:





The west stairs as they descend alongside the west garden:


down on west stairs-eve



And, finally before exiting the Sky Garden, the dazzling view to the south, with the lights of London twinkling before us:





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