RHWL's detailed application for P&O's 125m-high sail-shaped office block has whipped up strong feelings.
Architecture Foundation director Rowan Moore has likened the Waterloo tower to a huge protruding tumour, more like a tombstone than a sail.
Moore told the AJ: 'London is a city of towers; we can have more of them and maybe even at Waterloo. But because towers are so visible from far away, you raise the bar massively in terms of design quality.
'There are also issues with the backdrop to County Hall and Big Ben. I'm not a heritage nut, but sometimes when you have really significant democratic buildings you need to think carefully about their settings, and with a project of this size it's hard for any architect not to make it look like something quite so looming.'
Twentieth Century Society caseworker Cordula Zeidler echoed his worries: 'Our main concern is for the Royal Festival Hall and the London Eye, iconic buildings that will be dwarfed and lost if there's such a huge backdrop. The facade is rather mediocre for such a major building and we are concerned about its impact on the South Bank.'
Columnist and anti tall buildings campaigner Simon Jenkins added: 'These things are madness; I hate them - they are foibles for architects and developers. Towers are not appropriate for London, period, but if you must have them the conventional design wisdom is they should go in clusters.
And, apart from Canary Wharf, they are dotted everywhere.
There is effectively no policy for high buildings in London under Ken Livingstone.'
However, AJ columnist Simon Allford called on the building's critics to give it a more measured examination before condemning it outright.
'Would they say that if it was by Renzo Piano or Richard Rogers?' he asked. 'It's the assumption that good architecture can't happen unless its by a star architect.'
Any assessment of the proposals should include a consideration of the buildings it would be replacing, he said, including the Tower Building (currently occupied by CABE), which 'sits uncomfortably in its context'.