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Old February 9th, 2006, 06:10 AM   #1
hkskyline
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FT Criticizes London's Skyscrapers

Capital boasts few high points that have been made in heaven
Edwin Heathcote, the FT's architecture critic, gives the low-down on London's skyscrapers
By ANDREW HEATHCOTE
2 February 2006
Financial Times



London has always enjoyed a love/hate relationship with skyscrapers. From the time when Wren's spires pierced the city's skyline in the aftermath of the Great Fire and the huge dome of his St Paul's rolled into view, there has been no shortage of tall structures.

London's distinctive electrocardiograph profile em-erged but since Wren's day tall buildings have housed offices and homes rather than simply church bells and pigeons, and controversy has raged.

From Centrepoint, which stood empty for decades but has since become a listed retro icon, to the residential towers of the Barbican or Erno Goldfinger's hulking Trellick Tower, once a grim sink block, now a beacon of aspirational middle-class urbanity, there have been few immediate successes.

This conservative city takes time to take things to its heart and buildings become loved only once they have become part of the landscape. The notable ex-ception is Lord Foster's 30 St Mary Axe, the Gherkin, a 40-storey skyscraper that has radically transformed the skyline, and the perception of the City from beyond its boundaries. Within a couple of years it has achieved unheard of international status, recently having been voted the single most ad-mired contemporary building in an international poll of architects.

The Gherkin is a superb building, innovative, ecologically sound and sculpturally inventive but it could be argued that its success has been a dangerous thing for London. In its wake has followed a rash of unimpressive applications, including those flanking Lots Road.

The language employed by architects and developers is that of "icons" and "landmarks" but London is a city stuffed with landmarks of real historical and aesthetic value and interest, in fact the Lots Road power station, an industrial structure of al-most Byzantine might is a monument in itself, the former power source of London's locomotion.

It is certainly not in need of a pair of bland, generic towers to give it an identity. Their architect, Terry Farrell, is a cultured figure, a good urbanist but an appalling designer, his dreadful oeuvre including the awesomely kitsch, neo-deco of the MI6 HQ in Vauxhall and the elephantine Embankment Place, which crushes Villiers Street and Charing Cross under the ponderous weight of its post-modern marble.

These towers join a backlog of others that have permission but which sit nervously waiting to be realised, including London Bridge Tower by the over-rated Italian architect Renzo Piano and 110 Bishopsgate.

The conspicuous lack of success of skyscrapers in London from Centrepoint to the dull former Natwest Tower had led to a default position of official rejection. However, recent pleas from the City to be allowed to compete properly with other international financial centres in terms of modern office accommodation combined with a continuing trend towards city-centre living and government support of increasing density of residential accommodation have revived the genre.

While these permissions may indicate a trend they do not stem from any broader framework, astonishingly, there is no bigger plan and the result will be a piecemeal, ugly and ill-considered skyline to match a patchwork street-level experience in which these large buildings remain poorly integrated monoliths.

Even where tall buildings are of good architectural quality there are questions to be asked about how they are integrated into the urban landscape - skyscrapers not only dominate the skyline but exert a profound impact on pedestrian networks. The architects and developers of these preening monuments are obsessed with their own image but often too little concerned with their surroundings.

Architectural quality is often not enough, and these Chelsea towers are not even particularly high quality. This permission creates a precedent beyond the environs of the City that could have profound effects on the future appearance of the city and will make it hard to reject similar proposals.

London's skyline, unlike that of Paris or Rome, is often less than beautiful. It is wrong to treat it with kid gloves, to be overly precious but it is far more wrong to subject it to an ill-conceived, poorly thought through policy of presumption in favour of tall buildings as long as they come with a trophy architect attached and achieve the unassailable goal of increased density and expanded provision of subsidised housing.

London is a robust and adaptable city that is more than capable of handling a few tall buildings but they need to be good and to be properly integrated into the diverse historic fabric otherwise they will achieve nothing better than a vertically stacked suburbia, alien and insulting to this complex metropolis.
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Old February 9th, 2006, 06:55 AM   #2
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oh oh.... fur is gonna fly.
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Old February 11th, 2006, 01:32 PM   #3
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I don't think you'll get many claiming that until recently much of the post war highrise in London wasnt terrible.
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:07 AM   #4
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Quote:
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I don't think you'll get many claiming that until recently much of the post war highrise in London wasnt terrible.
He goes further than that by including recent architecture, which he finds lacking, with very few exceptions; that is the rub. Will raise a few eyebrows in the architectural circles of London.
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Old February 28th, 2007, 08:46 AM   #5
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London skyscraper plans under threat
14 February 2007
The Times

Property developers are facing a crackdown on ambitious plans to build skyscrapers beyond the City of London.

The Government is poised to rein in what has for the past few years been seen as a liberal London planning regime, which has given the green light to a number of planned high-risers, such as the 310 metre (1016 ft) Shard of Glass over London Bridge.

But following a severe reprimand from Unesco in a hitherto unpublished report, the Department for Media, Culture and Sport has indicated in its own interim report, seen by The Times, that it will rein back on approving plans for more tall buildings in Westminster and Southwark.

An imminent change in government planning policy could set it on a collision course with Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, who has been an advocate of more skyscrapers throughout Central London in his backing of "the London Plan".

The Unesco world heritage committee report, compiled last July, lambasted the UK Government over the lack of protection for what it considers to be London's international historical landmarks, from the Tower of London in the east to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster in the west.

In a side-swipe at the London Plan, Unesco said that it "regrets that the London Plan policies to protect the World Heritage property and its environment do not seem to be applied effectively (and) that statutory protection for views to and from the Tower could be diminished".

The Unesco report also urged the Government -referred in its report as the "State Party" -to "review the possibility of inclusion of the property (the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey) in the list of World Heritage in danger".

Unesco also called for statutory protection for the view from the South Bank towards the Tower of London.

"To keep the last remaining visual axis unobstructed is key to the conservation of the visual integrity of the Tower," it said.

However, the Culture Department has said in its interim report: "The UK state party is pleased to report a new protected view of the Tower of London is to be included in the London View Management Framework.

"The precise detail of the protected view is under discussion between key stakeholders and we will forward a plan that defines it as soon as it is agreed."

The documents were submitted in a planning inquiry for a new London skyscraper.

The Government also reported to the planning inquiry that "a visual impact study of the World Heritage Site (Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster) is to be undertaken as requested by the mission (Unesco). The findings of the visual impact study will inform revision to planning policy at both the regional and local levels as well as being an important national consideration in determining future applications".

A likely tightening of planning policy on tall buildings could undermine proposals already stuck in a planning inquiry to build the 180 metre Beetham Tower on Blackfriars Road, rising to 52 storeys and including a 261-room hotel. Initial plans for a a 226 metre tower were scaled back.

Changes in planning guidance will threaten proposals yet to be submitted to erect three towers, called Elizabeth House, rising to 140 metres next to Waterloo station.

Land Securities, Britain's largest property company, is also thought to be working on plans to build twin 50-storey towers near Victoria station, which could dominate views of Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Land Securities last year submitted a multibillion-pound scheme for Victoria station, which included three skyscrapers ranging between 25 and 42 storeys. The scheme was withdrawn when Westminster council made it clear that it would allow only one tower above 12 storeys.

TOWERS IN TROUBLE

* LandSecs' plans for its 525 ft "Walkie Talkie" tower in Fenchurch Street.

Corporation of London approved the scheme in September outside the designated "cluster" for tall buildings but the Government has called in the plans. Ruth Kelly, Minister for Communities and Local Government, said she would look at the "appropriateness of a very very tall building" in the area and its impact on the Tower of London.

* Plans under review for the 180m Beetham Tower on Blackfriars Road.

* LandSecs is thought to be working on plans to build a pair of skyscrapers near Victoria station.
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Old March 1st, 2007, 06:42 AM   #6
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I still think the butt plug belongs in Vegas or Dubai and not in a classy city like London.
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Old March 1st, 2007, 06:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
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I still think the butt plug belongs in Vegas or Dubai and not in a classy city like London.
Sniff some poppers and enjoy the view.....
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Old March 5th, 2007, 10:50 PM   #8
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the most interesting building in this picture is the big red one in front - and that is actually being demolished . london desperately needs some good skyscrapers - the skyline of the wannabe financial capital looks pathetic now. the almost finished willis building isn't helping a lot.
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Old March 5th, 2007, 11:15 PM   #9
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The Willis Building isn't in that pic
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Old March 6th, 2007, 12:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
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the most interesting building in this picture is the big red one in front - and that is actually being demolished .
you're kidding right? where the hell are unesco now?

totally warped priorities...
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Old March 6th, 2007, 04:23 AM   #11
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London is the only city I see, in the western world, that can even has a chance of being compared to new emerging cities (Dubai/Shanghai) in terms of new and bold skyscraper architecture.

Although I don't think I'd like to see it have the same high-concentration of towers like the above mentioned cities.
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Old March 6th, 2007, 12:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Its AlL gUUd View Post
The Willis Building isn't in that pic
duh...of course it's not. but before some says that this picture is old and that willis is missing I say this little tower won't help either - even with willis it would look pathetic.
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Old March 7th, 2007, 12:19 AM   #13
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you're kidding right? where the hell are unesco now?

totally warped priorities...
Yeah I agree. Theyīre replaceing it with a shopping centre.

You wonder where unesco are?

They (and English Heritage as well) are busy preventing world class skyscrapers from being built by claiming that they will ruin the settings and views of St Paulīs Cathedral and The Tower when in fact they wonīt. They also back up their deluded theories by publicing renders of skyscrapers that have already been cancelled Of course they have no problem with this mall being built right next to St Paulīs, not to mention all the architectural dross that already surrounds the cathedral as well as the Tower. The North Bank of the Thames is also crowded with post-war architecture which further obscure views of St Paulīs. When will unesco or English Heritage actually start basing their statements and articles on reality?

Last edited by Mr Bricks; March 7th, 2007 at 12:29 AM.
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Old March 7th, 2007, 07:05 AM   #14
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I thought the intensification within the City will slow while developments will focus on the Docklands and south of the Thames?
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Old March 7th, 2007, 12:17 PM   #15
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I donīt know really. As for now it seems as though all the big towers for the city (Bishopsgate, Heron and Leadenhall) are going ahead.
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Old March 9th, 2007, 11:05 AM   #16
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So it's not really due to preservation efforts within the City - ie. reduce the juxtaposition of tall glassy new buildings amidst the historical buildings?
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Old March 9th, 2007, 12:00 PM   #17
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The real reason are the conservative ideas those people have i.e. theyīre afraid to build tall buildings, at least this is what I believe. None of the proposed towers (Shard, Bishopsgate, Heron and Leadenhall) will block views of St Paulīs or the Tower. On the other hand there are dozens of bulky mid-rises around these old landmarks that spoil them completely. Itīs a illogical as it can get.
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Old March 9th, 2007, 05:48 PM   #18
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I agree that putting a huge glassy skyscraper next to St. Paul's will ruin its prominence, but building tall around it in Southwark may do just the same even though the shadow might not reach it.
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Old March 11th, 2007, 09:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
The language employed by architects and developers is that of "icons" and "landmarks" but London is a city stuffed with landmarks of real historical and aesthetic value and interest.....
Even where tall buildings are of good architectural quality there are questions to be asked about how they are integrated into the urban landscape - skyscrapers not only dominate the skyline but exert a profound impact on pedestrian networks. The architects and developers of these preening monuments are obsessed with their own image but often too little concerned with their surroundings.
Architectural quality is often not enough....
This is very well said and explains why I personally don't really like the overall appearance of London City.
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Old March 12th, 2007, 01:33 AM   #20
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I think that it is silly to say that London should not have any high rise buildings as it is becuase of these high rise buildings that big businesses come to cities. I think that as long as they are desgined well and not to bulky looking there should be no problem, its more a width problem rather that height i think.
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