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Chipperfield: backing campaign is like 'voting for good weather'

David Chipperfield has issued a rallying call to the profession to support the AJ’s and The Observer’s new joint campaign to stop poorly designed towers ruining London’s skyline

More than 230 tall buildings are currently consented or proposed across the capital but many are insensitive to their surroundings and have been designed without proper concern for their collective impact, the Skyline campaign argues.

Chipperfield – an RIBA Gold Medallist whose firm is behind the controversial high-rise scheme Elizabeth House on the South Bank - said the campaign was not against skyscrapers but instead argued for a clearer planning system.

He said: ‘Everybody should support this campaign. It’s simply saying that there should be a more co-ordinated planning system in London. Backing it is like voting for good weather.   I don’t think anybody, including developers, enjoys the current [planning] conditions.

He added: ‘Something like Elizabeth House has involved a huge amount of to-ing and fro-ing and better guidance would have been appreciated by everyone. The skyline is the most visible expression of what happens when a city has no overall co-ordinated planning vision.

‘After Thatcher, a view emerged that the market should tell you what your city would look like. Calling planning officers development control officers is part of that.’

Since Sunday when the Observer launched the campaign, RIBA president Stephen Hodder has thrown his weight behind the campaign as have former presidents Angela Brady and Marco Goldschmied.

Other figures to have signed up include philosopher Alain de Botton,  London MPs Tessa Jowell and David Lammy and TV presenter Kevin McCloud.

McCloud said: ‘It’s important that we distinguish between the very controlled, high-rise development in areas like the City and Canary Wharf, with the relatively untrammelled rash of speculative development that has already started to spring up in many other London boroughs, especially along the river.

‘London is changing too fast for many of us – including some planning departments – to be able to control.’

Observer critic Rowan Moore – who devised the campaign alongside the AJ – said it was about supporting quality towers in the right location.

He said: ‘Those with power and responsibility – the Communities Secretary and his ministers, the Mayor, and the boroughs – must wake up to the risk of irreversible harm that London is facing, and take effective action. ‘

The campaign supports New London Architecture boss Peter Murray’s call for a new mayoral Skyline Commission ‘to review and enable well-designed development’ as well as calling for a more structured, defined and considered policy for tall buildings, with transparency for the public and clarity for developers.

A spokesman for London mayor Boris Johnson said: ‘The Mayor needs to balance an array of challenges and competing interests across a rapidly growing city. He recognises the concerns around the architecture of London’s skyline, but tall buildings, beautifully designed in the right location, and in harmony with their surroundings help to meet the challenge of a rapidly growing city.

‘The Mayor is looking at the idea of a skyline commission but he’d urge those behind this new group to first study the London Plan and its alterations, and then to engage with the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group which already brings together some of the most distinguished names in this field.’

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