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Parry tipped for tallest tower in City

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Eric Parry is behind proposals for a new mega-skyscraper which is set to become the tallest in the City of London, the AJ has learned

According to sources, the tower at No 1 Undershaft, on the neighbouring site next to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ recently completed Cheesegrater building could top 70 storeys.

If built to that height the scheme would be taller than KPF’s long-awaited but now stalled Helter Skelter scheme – aka The Pinnacle - which was planned to reach 63 floors before work halted in 2012 with its core just several storeys up.

It is understood Eric Parry Architects saw off PLP and David Walker Architects to land the tower project – a huge scheme with an estimated budget of nearly half a billion pounds which is rumoured to be backed by an unknown Singapore-based company.

The tower would replace the so-called Aviva Tower – formerly the Commercial Union building – a 118m-tall block with similarities to Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in New York.

Completed in 1969, the building was designed by the Gollins Melvin Ward Partnership (GMW) and was substantially renovated in 1992 after it was heavily damaged in the Baltic Exchange bombing by the IRA.

Earlier this year Brian Avery released a concept for a contextual skyscraper on the same plot, described by Richard Weston as ascending ‘stealthily but emphatically higher than the Cheesegrater to crown the cluster of towers’ (see AJ 09.01.15).

It is unclear how the Parry scheme could be built taller than KPF’s Pinnacle, given that the tower was originally set to be 307m but was later scaled down to 288m following concerns from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Eric Parry refused to comment.


Terry Brown, former senior partner of GMW Architects

‘It seems that with the arrival of the Shard and the demise of the Peter Rees’ grouping around Tower 42, The Square Mile is intent on becoming another US style downtown à la Canary Wharf.

‘As a retired senior partner of GMW Architects I’ll naturally be sad to see Commercial Union, as we knew it, bite the dust. It is surely a classic of its time and was one of the reasons I joined the practice many years ago. I can claim no credit for the design, it was Edmund Ward’s inspiration, but can only comment that it was both commercially and architecturally successful for many years.

‘The urban design set piece it was part of in combination with the P&O Building, demolished for the Cheesegrater, was groundbreaking at the time in that it brought two City Giants together to do a classic modern movement urban design scheme with the open space of the CU Plaza. In the fullness of time, this provided an important part of the setting for the Lloyds Building. 

‘At the time of its design and subsequently for many years English towers could not be designed with the huge floorplates their North American cousins had, or to the number of storeys they achieved and so they turn out to be less than fully economic as commercial enterprises in the long run.   

‘Times have, however, changed and so I’m not surprised by the news. If a site can be shown to support additional square metres, then developers are going to come forward to carry out the development and there will always be a starchitect somewhere who is prepared to design it. What ambitious architect could refuse?

‘While I’ve come to believe that towers are entirely kudos and money driven, I would always prefer to see densification of city space rather than the gobbling up a virgin land.’ 

‘Seen in the context of sustainability, downtown areas are a necessary evil of our cities, no matter how these energy guzzlers are promoted as energy conscious, the fact remains that they have a big carbon footprint, though they save on land. There is at least a question to be answered then: “Do we need them?” I have to say, my feelings are mixed on many fronts. 


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