May 5, 2015
There are currently over 260 new towers either proposed, approved or under construction in Greater London, a 12 per cent increase on last year. There has been much debate and concern about the impact of the design and build of so many new towers on the capital and in particular the visual impact. The Skyline Campaign was launched last year with signatures from over 80 public figures hoping to halt the ‘destruction’ of London’s skyline. London is a busy city, on a small island with limited space. Towers allow us to create residential and commercial property using a minimal amount of land. However it is vital that new buildings that are tall enough to have a visual impact have the right design, are in the right place, and are built at the right time.
Although towers started appearing in the capital from the 1970’s, it wasn’t until the new millennium that we started building upwards on a greater scale, so it’s important to learn lessons quickly and make sure the approach to creating tall buildings is as considered as possible.
There are many benefits to building a tower rather than multiple lower rise properties. Due to scale efficiencies and reduced building costs, the next generation of tower developers have a great opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative design and technology and to also improve the environment for Londoners.
They are able to use the latest technology, such as high speed lifts, and spectacular, modern interiors, as they have done in the ‘Cheese Grater’ and the ‘Walkie Talkie’. However it is important to strive to maximise the benefits available by improving public areas where possible, for example the realm that has been created at the base of 122 Leadenhall St is a new environment for the public to enjoy.
When we talk about innovative design, I believe there is a fine line between ‘exceptional’ and ‘banal’. Towers are visually intrusive for everyone living and working in London and inevitably become landmarks, so architects and developers have an implicit responsibility to make them sympathetic to the capital and its history – London has four sites and attractions listed by UNESCO as being of special cultural or physical significance.
With the amount of disruption caused during the construction phase, developers in the capital have an obligation to create a building that provides the greatest possible benefits to London and the people that live and work here.
Noise pollution and vibration, increased traffic, infrastructure changes and extra strain on public transport are just some of the downsides to large projects. There is also the permanent effect on neighbouring buildings with tall buildings blocking out light and also wind eddies being created.
To keep the City of London as the foremost financial city in the world, we recognise that new towers are needed to accommodate corporates and large businesses. However developers must be responsible, taking the opportunity to incorporate the most innovative but appropriate designs and newest technologies while maximising the benefits to Londoners through new public spaces. By doing this they will ensure the capital is the most creative and vibrant place it can be.
Paul Chilton is Head of City of London office for Cluttons.
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