London’s Controversial 37-Story High Garden Opens

The newest controversial attraction in Europe is not an underground nightclub, but a garden in the clouds. London’s highest roof garden has opened at the top of the capital’s newest skyscraper, 20 Fenchurch Street – a structure that is referred to as the Walkie-Talkie, because of its uniquely voluptuous shape.

Dubbed the Sky Garden, the proposals for building the controversial three-story public space in the 37-floor skyscraper was approved back in 2007. Starting on January 12th, the public will officially have access to the spot, which starts on the 35th floor and features incredible views of Central London, ample space, and lush foliage.

However, not everyone is excited about the giant structure’s new sector, which was designed by landscape practice Gillespies. Critics have said the garden is “not a proper public space” at the top of “probably the ugliest building in London,” the BBC reports. And even British city planners have admitted that the anticipated garden is not “quite what it was meant to be.”

“I think calling it a sky garden is perhaps misleading,” said Peter Rees, the City of London’s former chief planner. “If people are expecting to visit it as an alternative to Kew, then they will be disappointed.”

He added, “This was never designed as just a garden, but the public have free access to the top with wonderful views across London.

London’s Controversial 35-Story High Garden Opens - ClapwayPhoto Courtesy of Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB/

Along with Rees, others argue that the development, which houses three high-end restaurants for 400 diners, isn’t actually a garden at all, but “an observation deck with a few trees.” What’s more, the garden isn’t technically public either: Only paying customers who are visiting one of the three eateries will be allowed up to the garden after 6 p.m., according to the BBC. And guests must book three days in advance to go up the tower.

“Lots of people got excited about the public garden idea but it’s not a real public garden – instead a private space you have to book to visit three days in advance,” the Victorian Society’s Christopher Costelloe said.

Independent councilor Tom Sleigh agreed, adding, “A planning condition was that it would be a green park where people can congregate. If this is not delivered, then the developers should be held to account.”