Rowan Moore’s confusion

The new tower at 20 Fenchurch St., London. (The Observer)

The new tower at 20 Fenchurch St., London, seen through Tower Bridge. (The Observer)

Rowan Moore’s tart critique in the Observer of London’s newest tower since the hideous Shard – the Walkie-Talkie-Scorchie Building (20 Fenchurch) – is a joy to read. His sallies against the building that no longer burns cars on the streets below, because it now wears shades, are spot on and suggest that Moore actually is one of the few architecture critics who understand.

Especially pleasant for Rhode Islanders is Moore’s defenestration of the designer of Brown University’s Birdshitcatcher Building, the Watson Center, on Thayer Street in Providence. (Its out-slanting windows perform an unintended function.) Moore’s dripping contempt for the many spectacles of Rafael Viñoly (that is, his glasses; does he wear several pair at once?), who with the Walkie-Talkie has achieved his coveted starchitect status, is to die for. (Moore neglects to mention that the Walkie-Talkie is not Viñoly’s first “death ray” building. His hotel in Las Vegas’s City Center complex, the Vdara, focused more than merely tanning rays on guests using its pool.)

Alas, Moore’s look askance at the Walkie-Talkie is merely illusion. He spouts against the word iconic but the concept of modern architecture continues to hold him in its thrall, despite clear evidence that he realizes how bad it is for the city of London, its people, its skyline, its everything. Or at least in the case of this one building. The aha moments mount delightfully as one by one he puts down the pusillanimous jargon of the developers and architects. But they add up to nothing. He does not understand.

Read it, laugh out loud, and weep.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to Rowan Moore’s confusion

  1. Pingback: Rowan Moore’s confusion | The TradArch Blog Experiment

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