London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has defended the quality of high-rise buildings being built across the capital following the launch of the AJ/Observer Skyline campaign
In an article in the Evening Standard on Friday (4 April), Johnson insisted that the raft of new skyscrapers emerging in London were not ‘going up higgledy-piggledy, without any plan or vision’ and that ‘new developments [were] not just piggy-banks in the sky for the global plutocracy’.
With more than 230 tall buildings currently consented or proposed across London, the AJ and The Observer have raised fears that many high-rises could be insensitive to their surroundings and have been designed without concern for their collective impact.
But the Mayor claimed that ‘virtually all’ the consented tall buildings were within the ‘limited areas specifically identified as suitable for such buildings, both by the boroughs and by the London Plan’ and that it was ‘not true’ that City Hall had a pact with developers ‘to wave [towers] through’ adding that 62 per cent of schemes that come across his desk had been rejected.
He told the newspaper: ‘Some people are understandably alarmed about what all this construction activity may mean for the eventual look of London. I want to offer reassurance.
‘It is not true to say that we are deserting traditional London typologies in favour of high-rise. Across the city, 1960s blocks are being taken down and replaced with buildings on a more human scale, with 21st-century versions of the Georgian and Victorian terraces and squares.
’[But the towers] that survive [the palnnnig proess are good schemes]. They will not conflict with the views of great London buildings such as the Palace of Westminster or the Tower of London or St Paul’s. In fact, we widened the protected areas around those buildings soon after I was elected in 2008.’
He added: ”Sensitively managed, well designed and in the right place, tall buildings will continue to help this city address its greatest challenge.’
I realise that I do not share the visceral dislike of all tall buildings that seems to actuate some writers for this paper. But then nor do all Londoners. In a recent survey, the Gherkin was Londoners’ favourite building, followed by the Shard and then the Cheesegrater. We cannot have it all ways. We cannot simultaneously protect the green belt and ban tall buildings and hope to meet our need to house the people of this city.’
The campaign has already attracted a wealth of big-name backers including RIBA president Stephen Hodder, Kevin McCloud, David Adjaye and David Chipperfield – the RIBA Gold Medallist whose firm is behind the controversial high-rise scheme Elizabeth House on the South Bank.
Chipperfield said the campaign was not against skyscrapers but instead argued for a clearer planning system.
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