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Piano tower hits the right note with Livingstone

The selection of Renzo Piano to lead the design team for Europe's tallest skyscraper paid off immediately last week when London mayor Ken Livingstone gave the 390m building his backing.

Piano, co-architect Broadway Malyan and developer Irvine Sellar showed the redesigned London Bridge tower to Livingstone, his 'city architect'Lord Rogers and planning chief Nicky Gavron at a two-hour meeting.

Livingstone's passion for the £300 million shard-shaped tower was such that he told developer Irvine Sellar: 'I won't forgive you if this isn't built.'

Piano's design follows a proposal by Broadway Malyan six months ago for a tower on the site of the same height. This received mixed reactions but Broadway Malyan remains on Piano's design team 'in a supporting role', according to Sellar. 'They knew from day one we would bring in one of the world's leading architects, 'Sellar said. Asked if the selection of Piano was principally to ensure a planning permission, Sellar replied: 'I'm confident that with this design, the planners will think this is a positive contribution.'

A planning application will be submitted before the end of the year and the developer is prepared for a fight. Sellar has appointed a lobbyist, PSS, to help clear the hurdles to a permission.These include the mayor, the London Borough of Southwark, which earlier this year supported plans for a 50-storey residential tower by Foster and Partners, and deputy prime minister John Prescott. Prescott must decide whether to order a public inquiry on such a tall building. Again, precedent looks to be in the building's favour after Prescott controversially refused to order a public inquiry into the City's Swiss Re tower in August.

But PPS's Charles St George said that Prescott would prove the biggest hurdle, since heritage and conservation lobbies are likely to channel their protests through him.

The London Bridge tower is styled to look like the mast of a tall ship or a spire. 'Architecture has to tell stories and using memory is part of that, 'he said. 'Our memory is permeated by history. That is why this design alludes to spires.'

The entire tower will be clad in 'extra white'glass which is being specially designed to reduce heat gain, adding a fifth extra to the glass's cost.

Piano said the building will use 30 per cent less energy than conventional towers and that it will have no car parking. About 10,000 people are expected to use the building every day and Sellar said that a string of US banks and law firms have already expressed an interest in taking part of the 65,000m 2office space. Apartments and live/work units will be located at the top of the tower.

Piano is also designing a tower for the New York Times in New York and designed much of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

Top: the apex of the tower is a 100m tall 'radiator'which will use the regular 35 mph winds at that altitude to cool the building. Middle: a public access area at 200m above ground will provide restaurants, viewing platforms and 'London's most extravagant auditorium'with a sliding screen to reveal a view of the capital. Bottom: six floors of public space at the base of the tower will give access to buses and trains and include shopping

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