Staggeringly sleek and toweringly tall, London’s skyline is about to change with these new skyscrapers.
For a city that once boasted the world’s tallest building with St Paul’s Cathedral, London has more recently lagged behind its US, Asian and, now, Middle Eastern counterparts. After the skyscraper was invented in Chicago in 1884, churches and cathedrals steadily dropped off lists of the world’s tallest buildings.
With today’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, reaching some 828 metres (2,717 feet) compared to the 310-metre (1,017 feet) height of The Shard (London’s tallest building) it seems topping those charts again might be out of reach for the British capital for now.
Still, the city’s skyline is being redefined with a slew of ambitious projects. Now that the measure of a fireman’s ladder no longer determines the height of a building in the British capital, as it did until 1954 in accordance with the London Building Act, a slew of top architects is pushing the limits.
A March 2016 study by planning and architecture forum New London Architecture found that 436 towers of 20 floors or more were in the works across London at that time. Not everyone thinks this is good. Pressure groups abound, including Skyline Campaign, which last year celebrated the reduction of a proposed 72-floor Renzo Piano tower, the Paddington Pole, to a mere 14 storeys.
But fans say London has lots of high-rise style to offer.
“London is far behind cities like New York, Dubai, and many cities where hundreds of skyscrapers crowd together,” says Herbert Wright, author of London High, Skyscrapers: Fabulous Buildings That Reach for The Sky. “Hong Kong has the most of all. But being ahead is more than just numbers or height. In terms of design and sustainability, London is a leading skyscraper city.”
Wright can sometimes be spotted on the streets of London, peering towards the skyline to monitor skyscraper developments. He is looking forward to the completion of the revamped 1960s icon Centre Point, with its yet-to-be-sold £55m penthouse.
“The best will be Centre Point, London’s supremely elegant and unique 1965 masterpiece designed by Richard Seifert,” he says. The iconic building rises above Tottenham Court Road tube station, measuring 117 metres (384 feet) tall. “It has literally been under wraps for some time, as it is converted into flats, but will be reborn in 2018, it’s mesmeric concrete facades and adjacent breath-taking glass bridge set to dazzle again,” he says.
The tower has been converted from offices into 82 apartments. Architects Conran & Partners, Almacantar, and Rick Mather Architects were appointed to this 34-storey project.