The Towers of London

Renzo Piano's Shard

’s skyline is about to get a complete makeover.  While in the past, almost every tower proposed was stalled due to financial shortcomings, or workers just leaving the job site, now, is dusting off their old building plans and getting ready to move into a construction frenzy. Thanks to Kieran Long’s article at the Evening Standard we get to know more details about this process:

Foster + Partners and Jean Nouvel's Walbrook Square

Don’t get us wrong – London is still right in the middle of the same financial turmoil we are all experiencing.   Peter Rees, the chief planning officer of the City of London, explained, “I don’t see this as the start of a new property boom. Developers are simply meeting demand that currently exists, because there is a shortage of grade-A office space in the City. In the longer term, people have significant question marks about the state of the world economy and so on. They’re just getting the product there while there’s demand.”

Rafael Viñoly Architects' Fenchurch Street

Interestingly, the skyscrapers that were designed during London’s more prosperous time will be built exactly the same way.  There seems to be no recognition of the fact that we are building in a different financial time and designs may have to be altered.  “Perhaps the temples to commerce that skyscrapers represent might feel a little hubristic at this point in the economic cycle….That kind of thinking [re-evaluation of designs] takes too long and renegotiating planning permission is too arduous. It’s quicker to dust off old plans than to make new ones. London will get a clutch of tall buildings that were designed for a boom, and delivered after a chastening recession,” commented Kieran Long.

And, we’re talking about a lot of buildings  - the 310m Shard by Renzo Piano, above London Bridge station, will be finished in time for the 2012 Olympics, and Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) is looking to have two finished towers by 2013, the 230m Heron Tower and the Pinnacle Tower, the city’s tallest building after the Shard. Plus, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ Leadenhall Building, Rafael Viñoly Architects’ 20 Fenchurch Street, and the 22-storey Walbrook Square by Foster + Partners and French architect Jean Nouvel are all moving forward.

Carey Jones's Vauxhall Cross Eco-Tower

But this building is not merely confined to the metropolis –  various ‘clusters’ of towers in Vauxhall, Blackfriars and Croydon seems to be progressing, and the skylines of these areas will be transformed.  Some towns could have at least five new residential towers of between 20 and more than 40 storeys, if plans are approved on a variety of developments.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners' Leadenhall Building

With all these projects moving forward, we’ll have to see what kind of city these towers will make London.  ” When you look at the skyline in five years’ time, remind yourself that you are not looking at the architecture of prosperity but of what came after. We’ll have to wait to find out what these strange shapes on the London skyline will come to symbolize.”

Foster + Partners' Broadgate Tower
Ian Simpson Architects' Beetham Towers

Source: Kieran Long for the London Evening Standard

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "The Towers of London" 22 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>

    The Towers of London | ArchDaily

  • simonmeek

    Great cautionary roundup of new London Class A office buildings:

  • André Figueiredo Fox

    We must ask ourselves if this is the right thing to do: “(…) They’re just getting the product there while there’s demand”.
    The city that we need, in my opinion, doesn’t have to be guided only by means of the economy demand, but, indeed, the conscience about the people’s demand, the “cultural” demand and the city as a whole demand. I’m not necessarily against skyscrapers, but after settled the precedent, we can imagine a new London for the future. Is this the London we want in fact?

    André Figueiredo
    Recife, Pernambuco – Brazil

  • Casper

    May be, it isn’t the London that we want, but, it´s the London that we need.

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  • Cindy FrewenWuellner

    London's Skyscraper Bonanza – Piano, Foster, Rogers, Nouvel. @archdaily #architecture

  • Liam

    The Shard is the only building in this list that stays true to some sort of vernacular, i.e the prominent church roofs and steeples in London during the 17th century before the great fire destroyed the majority of them. The rest of these buildings would fit into any modern city. I agree with Andre’ there is no cultural identity in any of these buildings (except The Shard). and thats the problem, without some sort of vernacular, architecture is meaningless. A building simply becomes a “beautiful” shelter, as opposed to a beautiful shelter with meaning.
    I hope London does not turn into another Dubai.

  • viniruski

    Church steeples of the 17th Century are nice but I think even church architecture has evolved since those baroque rococo days. Constraints to historical aesthetics lead to missed opportunities such as Richard Roger’s Chelsea Barracks project that was quashed by Prince Charles who argued his design was too modern. If it is cultural development of London that people “need”, then architects should be careful of which historical precidents they use. London has a history of class conflict, war, imperialism. Fortunately, London is IMHO the most culturally vibrant and cosmopolitan city on the planet. It is, however, also one of the top 3 world financial centres. As such, office towers are very appropriate for London. And with the arch/eng/const. sector in shambles, we should thank our lucky stars that anyone is employed and working and that anything is getting built at all. Besides, some of these towers continue the tradition of British Hi-Tech. Both Rogers and Piano are high tech, yet their buildings are also great world class places of cultural gathering and assembly. This is a step forward that the City of London will benefit from.

  • MarianoK

    London`s Tallest Tower? I the crisis?
    The Simpson`s is the best

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