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Skyscraper cluster expansion planned to tackle Walkie Talkie blight

Tower Bridge view
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City of London planners are looking at whether the visual impact of Rafael Viñoly’s much-maligned Walkie Talkie could be reduced by extending the Square Mile’s cluster of tall buildings southwards

The 155m-tall tower at 20 Fenchurch Street, which has been widely disparaged by design critics, currently stands alone from the rest of the cluster.

The corporation is using 3D modelling to understand and explore a number of scenarios for infilling the gap with a small number of new skyscrapers.

Gwyn Richards, head of design at the corporation, told the AJ that the work is taking place as part of a drive to investigate where new space can be found to meet the demand for new office space in the City. He said that the corporation needs to find more space to meet its target of 1.15million m² extra office space between 2011-2026.

He said: ‘One issue that has been brought to our attention is whether it would be preferable to have the Walkie Talkie effectively moved into the cluster so that it is less assertive. We have been exploring that in some detail.

‘We are hearing from stakeholders saying that it would benefit the cluster to bring it into a tightly knitted group. The intention that 20 Fenchurch Street should provide a standalone vantage point over the cluster is not widely accepted.’

Cluster expansion map zoomed

Cluster expansion map zoomed

Could more towers be built south [area shown in red] of the existing City cluster?

The corporation is also running modelling on wind levels around the building, which Richards said were also a problem.

He said: ‘We are starting to digest the wind impact around the cluster. The initial conclusions suggest that the wind is being pushed around the periphery of the cluster – and one of the affected areas is Fenchurch Street.’

However, he said that a number of constraints are likely to limit the quantum of development between the Walkie Talkie and the cluster.

He pointed to six conservation areas in the vicinity and residential developments which could suffer from overshadowing.

In addition, he said that any new high-rise development would likely be focused around the western end of Fenchurch Street in order to protect views from the Tower of London World Heritage Site.

He said: ‘There are a limited number of sites but in terms of infilling the gap in the view from Waterloo Bridge you only need one or two. We are not talking about a wholescale redevelopment of the area.’

Richards also said that views from the Walkie Talkie’s ‘sky garden’ would also be protected in any new plans for development.

He said that it would be up to politicians to decide whether to incorporate the possible expansion of the cluster into formal planning policy.

Cluster expansion map london

Cluster expansion map london

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Readers' comments (3)

  • This is good news, because while one could regard Rafael Vinoly's highly sophisticated concept design as a sort of outrigger for the cluster, it always made sense for it to be the last point in a continuum, not an isolated landmark. Look forward to what may emerge.

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  • Views northwards from the 'sky garden' are frankly of little consequence.

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  • Chris Rogers

    Is it April 1 again? To reduce the impact of a massive tall building, the answer is to surround it with more tall buildings?? In any event, it doesn't need it - genuinely baffled by the objections to its form. As for views north being of no consequence, have you actually been there? See http://www.chrismrogers.net/#/city-20-fenchurch-street/4590704145

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