The Towers of London

Renzo Piano's Shard

London’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, London 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:

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.”

Foster + Partners and Jean Nouvel's Walbrook Square

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.

Rafael Viñoly Architects' Fenchurch Street

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.

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.

Carey Jones's Vauxhall Cross Eco-Tower

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.”

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners' Leadenhall Building

Source: Kieran Long for the London Evening Standard

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

About this author
Cite: Karen Cilento. "The Towers of London" 22 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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