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Thumbs up for tallest tower in City

The City of London has granted planning permission to Eric Parry Architects’ 1 Undershaft skyscraper –  set to be the tallest in the Square Mile

Earlier today (28 November) members of the authority’s planning and transportation committee voted by 19 votes to 2 to approve the 73-storey tower, which will stand 304.94m above sea level.

The 154,100m² (GEA) building, backed by Singapore-based Aroland Holdings, will replace the Aviva Tower – formerly the Commercial Union building – a 118m-tall Miesian block by GMW dating from 1969.

The skyscraper will house 132,000m² offices, 2,178m² shops on the lower ground and ground floors, a 1,220m² restaurant on the 70th floor and a 2,930m² free public viewing gallery and education centre on levels 71-72, expected to be curated by the Museum of London.

There will also be an elliptical-shaped sunken public space on the lower level of the site, similar to Broadgate Circle near Liverpool Street Station.

The committee agreed with the planning officers’ report that the potential public benefits were ‘critical to the acceptability of this major development’. Members added that the approval of the plans showed the City was ‘open for business’ following the Brexit vote in June. 

Eric Parry also hailed the approval as a ‘vote of confidence in the City of London’. He said: ‘1 Undershaft will crown the cluster of tall buildings and will be a tower London can be truly proud of.’

He added that the skyscraper stood in an ‘appropriate place’ as the highest building within the so-called ‘eastern cluster’, next to Foster’s 30 St Mary’s Axe and Rogers Stirk Harbour’s 122 Leadenhall Street.

‘The most important thing with the building – and any building in the denser world of the eastern cluster – is it provides great public amenities,’ he said.

‘The elegance of the building is one thing, but the logic of the design all stemmed from the idea of maximising on the site the public realm … levitating the body of the building and pulling the core to the west side you maximise that space.’

Measured from the ground, the office block will be 294.6m tall – only a few metres shorter than Renzo Piano’s 306 m Shard across the river. Calculated from sea level the buildings are even closer in height, with the new tower standing at 309.6m and the Shard at 312.7m.

Plans for the scheme were first revealed last December, but were reduced in height earlier this year by 4.66m to prevent it impinging on London City Airport approach routes.

Parry said this reduction in height made a ‘very fractional’ impact on the design and did not affect the ‘overall form of the building’. He added that the drop in height was a result of an ‘ambiguity on the way aviation rules are worked in terms of imperial and metric’ – and that he hoped this could be ‘sorted out’ as the scheme progressed.

The architect said the use of vitreous enamel on the exterior of the building – alongside the diagonally angled weathered steel framing – would give the building a white sheen.

‘I’ve done everything to make sure that this building will feel optimistic, bright and be made in such a way that it will be as good in 50 years’ time as the day it’s finished,’ he said.

The scheme is Eric Parry Architects’ first skyscraper project. The practice’s previous tallest scheme was the 19-storey 5 Aldermanbury Square scheme.

Meanwhile, at the same committee, planning permission was granted to a number of amendments to the basement and base of PLP’s 22 Bishopsgate, including changes to the cycling route and the ’art street’, which French investment manager AXA decided to press go on earlier this month

 Eric Parry Architects' proposals for 1 Undershaft - public consultation December 2015

Eric Parry Architects’ proposals for 1 Undershaft - public consultation December 2015

Source: Anthony Coleman

Readers' comments (2)

  • The new Skyscraper development again brings into question the safety to its users in the event of fire. The densely populated area causes immense problems to fire fighters in the event of a fire incident. A frequent cause of fire is an electrical failure, fire spread and lifespan of cables. It is imperative that the maximum attention is given to the choice of cabling for security and fire protection applications. The non-ageing, enhanced fire survival, MICC type cable, is the suggested preference in fire conditions.
    Geoff Williams

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  • The area is not densely populated at night or weekends.

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