Tall buildings will change London for ever
‘The new towers of London will make this world city even more world class,’ says Rory Olcayto
London has one of the finest skylines in the world. Centre Point. The Nat West Tower. Guy’s and St Thomas’. The Orbit. These striking towers are loved the world over. But it’s about to get a whole lot better. There are more than 20 tall buildings planned that will change London for ever.
Thank you Broadway Malyan for leading the charge with a new tower in Vauxhall, cleverly named The Tower. It may not quite match up to St George Wharf, the same firm’s masterpiece alongside it but then everyone knows that development in particular, whose ‘specialness’ was only recently eclipsed by the Strata in Elephant and Castle, has helped London become a world city once again.
Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie is another soon-to-be-cherished icon. It’s in the City, so obviously it’s going to be extra special. That part of London is run by the architecture-loving chief planning officer Peter Rees, who would never commission anything unless it was of the highest quality. Norman Foster’s Walbrook for example - near Cannon Street for those of you who don’t live in this most beautiful of world cities - is the most admired building the high-tech master has ever designed.
But I digress. Depite its nonsensical name - do they mean mobile phone? - connoisseurs refer to Viñoly’s masterpiece as the Upside Down Shard. This more accurately encapsulates the building’s true genius, its decorum, its sensitivity to London’s ever-evolving skyline. Sure, The Shard is rubbish, an eyesore, a sketch-on-the-back-of-a-napkin joke, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be respected by other, more serious and accomplished structures. The mark of good architecture as we all know, is how well a new addition treats what is already there. It is why, after 123 years, the Eiffel Tower is still so unloved.
London has always been famous for its beautiful buildings, especially the keynotes that distinguish top cities from brash wannabes, the kind that dare challenge London’s rightful supremacy as an air-transport hub or as a financial centre. Take Heathrow. Easily the finest, most aesthetically pleasing, well-organised airport you are likely ever to use. Or Buckingham Palace - rightly acknowledged as the most beautiful palace in the world.
I’ve already name-checked the Orbit for its excellence, but let’s just bask a little longer in the knowledge that London has something truly special here - the most beautiful visitor attraction made out of steel and painted that particular red the world has ever known. I forget the name of the two genius blokes who invented it, but to come up with the idea of a disembodied tied shoelace and then build it for just £20 million only goes to show that London’s title of being the most creative city in the world will remain unchallenged for years.
London is great at old religious buildings too. St Paul’s, as experts will confirm, holds two world titles: the most beautiful domed structure on the planet that can be seen from Peckham’s multi-storey car park without anything blocking your view (not even the Strata) and the most reasonably priced temple of any kind open to the public in any of the great world cities.
It’s hard to believe it is only £15 to get in. No doubt that price will rise when the latest wave of new towers, including the amazing Helter Skelter due to sit alongside Fosters’ forgettable Gherkin, are complete. As well as making the skyline even more beautiful they will affirm London’s status as the best world city in the world once and for all. I think that’s called a win-win, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and the rest… Deal with it.
With apologies to Rowan Moore, whose piece on the same subject was published in ‘The Observer’ last Sunday.