A recent profile in Architectural Record highlights the career of Peter Wynne Rees, the chief planner of the City of London: the famous 'square mile' which contains the major financial district of Greater London, as well as some of its great tourist attractions, such as St Paul's Cathedral.
The profile focuses on the new crop of skyscrapers which Rees has ushered in in his 27 years as chief planner, something which has been contentious for preservationists. When he came to the job in 1985, the City of London had just one skyscraper: Tower 42, built in 1980. With the success of the Gherkin in the early 2000s, the surrounding area has seen many more high profile skyscrapers, such as the Heron Tower, 122 Leadenhall Street (The Cheesegrater) and 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie-Talkie).
Although UNESCO has warned that the nearby Tower of London could lose its world heritage status if skyscrapers are not sensitive to the views from the Tower, Rees justifies the planning decisions behind The City's upward expansion. Read on to find out more.
All these buildings are clustered, Rees says, to minimize their impact on the skyline and the surrounding area. By contrast he complains that The Shard - which being on the other side of the Thames is not in Rees's jurisdiction - does not exist in a cluster, but is there to show off. By clustering these financial buildings, Rees is aiming to provide the dynamic and exciting culture that will bring workers into the city, rather than taking advantage of modern technology to work from home.
But Rees's plan for London does not only consist of iconic tall buildings: he has also worked hard to improve the City's nightlife and dramatically increase the number of hotels in the area. This, though, does not mean Rees plans on making the City of London a home; he believes that for the financial district to survive, the number of residents who could object to new development must be limited. Thus, the strategy is aimed at attracting skilled 20-somethings (who could find work in any of the world's major cities) and make The City a vibrant and aspirational place to work.