From: John Grice (Editor)
To: Alana Figueres
Mon 17:28
RE: Fenchurch street article

Alana, what the hell is this?

Is this a joke?

There is no “park” on 20 Fenchurch Street. Unless you mean the Sky Garden, which is what you were supposed to be writing about…let alone one 50 miles across. Inside a building? What is this, the Twilight Zone? If you want to write joke articles, then start a blog for goodness’ sake. Then smoke all the pot you want. But you do NOT get high and try and write stuff for this paper while I am editor.

Final warning. I want PROPER copy by 9am tomorrow.

J

From: Alana Figueres
To: John Grice (Editor)
Mon 17:40
RE: Fenchurch street article

John, I understand your concerns, but all of the below article is true. The only drug in my system was caffeine.

The park is real. It is all real.

I regret I cannot take pictures of the park: doing so is forbidden and Albrini’s minders wouldn’t let me out of their sight long enough for me to sneak a picture.

But everything I describe below happened. I saw the park with my own eyes and can vouch for its existence.

This is not a joke.

A

***

Headline: The Hidden Architectural Marvel on Fenchurch Street and Why We All Need to See It

Standfirst: Fifty square miles of open parkland are hidden in one of the most built-up areas of Central London, but for those in the know, it is a once in a lifetime experience

Byline: By Alana Figueres, Architectural Correspondent

Marketing fluff tells us that the Sky Garden, on the 35th floor of 20 Fenchurch Street, is the highest public garden in London; they are right, but it is far from the most impressive.

For between floors 50 and 29 of that same tower is a vast open park, complete with trees, boating lakes, acres of green space, and golf courses.

Your disbelief, dear reader, is as understandable as mine was, before I saw it for myself.

The brainchild of engineer Femi Albrini—considered by some to be the most brilliant architectural engineer working today—the park manages to stretch for miles while remaining confined to the dimensions of the building.

Anyone who enters immediately feels as if they are within a vast natural space in the countryside. The air that greets the visitor emerging from the elevator is immediately clean and fresh, and the sun shines in a vast blue sky filled with swallows: all the more amazing when one considers that the offices of an insurance company are situated directly above the park.

No one knows quite how Albrini has achieved this, not even the acolytes who followed him around as I conducted by interview on one of the park’s many promenades, although all were quick to tell me that only Albrini could have come up with something that so deftly defies reality.

The only hint that Albrini gave to his methods when I met him came in the form of praise for the Fenchurch Street building’s architect, Rafael Viñoly.

“Such is the way that this building is constructed,” Albrini told me, “which naysayers were so quick to denounce. Its dimensions can be exploited to provide more space than is, strictly speaking, available.”

But how does the sky look so real, I asked?

When I posed this question, Albrini, smoothing his silver hair, became visibly irritated.

“Because it is real, of course,” he sniffed. “Sky is merely a diffraction of light by chemicals and gases. As it is out there, such is it in here. Once again, the unique use of space by the building accommodates such an atmosphere well.”

To call Albrini enigmatic is to be unjust to him. As flamboyant as he is talented, Albrini—in his tweed jacket and a bow tie as silver as his hair—is rarely out of the public eye. We know him as well as we know our own fathers: his love for the esoteric, his whims, his generosity to aspiring architects, his apolitical stance.

It is not the man we do not know, more his projects. The last year has taken him on long, unexplained trips to the Patagonian mountains, the Gobi Desert, and the supposed site of the Tunguska impact. When I asked about these projects, he was quick to cut the conversation short.

“It is for me that I explore, not for journalists,” he said, with barely-veiled hostility.

As we strolled through Albrini’s vast park, patronised by what seemed to be the bulk of London’s elite set, I tried to steer the interview back into safer territory and asked Albrini how the project came about. This he was willing to answer.

It seems, following the construction of the Fenchurch Street skyscraper, that many floors in the centre of the build remained vacant; this is when Albrini made a proposition to the owners of the building.

Albrini is secretive about the practical minutiae of creating the park, but tells me that he was able to preserve office space even within those floors occupied by the park. When I ask how, he simply refers me back to the unique ways space can be used in Viñoly’s building.

It is worth mentioning that upon arrival at 20 Fenchurch Street, I found that no one seemed to be aware of Albrini’s “garden” at all—not even the receptionists—though they did refer me to the Sky Garden, of course. I was taken to the park by delegation from Albrini’s offices in Pimlico.

Even more interestingly, after my visit, I experimented. Testing Albrini’s claims, I tried taking the elevator to various individual floors between 15 and 29. I found no sign of the park at all, and no sign of any space being taken up. This corroborates what Albrini had said regarding preserving existing floorspace.

So what was my overall impression of this fantastical park? In all honestly, for all its technological marvels, it left me hollow.

Lingering by one of the many ponds, watching the swans patrol over impeccably replicated silt and weeds in the shallows, I was struck by a kind of sadness. Like many city-dwellers, I have not seen this much wildlife, or this much “unspoilt” countryside (if one can call it such a thing) in many months. And yet, there is an undeniable hollowness to the park: a knowledge that it is a plaything of the rich and that its beauty is only skin deep. Dig into any of these pristine fields, and one will eventually hit metal. Fly too close to the sun, like Icarus, and one will crash into what is in fact most likely to be a large lamp.

Still, when I made my way to the concealed entrance of the elevator, I was reluctant to return to the corporate suites below. Exiting into the bustle in the streets, and casting an eye back to the bulbous skyscraper, I found myself struggling to believe what was contained by the glass and steel walls.

***

From: Albert Shellstrop (Editor in Chief)
To: John Grice (Editor)
Mon 18:34
RE: Fenchurch street article

Hi John,

As per our phone call earlier, we’ve had Albrini’s lawyers on the line, and the lawyers of the company that own 20 Fenchurch Street. They are both ready to give us both barrels. Do not run the piece under any circumstances. Furthermore, they have asked that all copies of the piece be securely destroyed and that Alana, unfortunately, be subject to disciplinary procedures.

Rest assured what Alana has come up with is utter fiction; the lawyers and I agree on that much.

Kr,

Albert.

[Recut: 30/03/2019 Lond]