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.