The London skyline is rapidly changing. This is obvious, and has been much-written about. Since the 2008-09 hiatus in construction due to the credit crunch, building big is back on.
UPDATE: would be remiss of me to not mention the FT’s excellent Shard of glass construction multimedia extravaganza.
But although a few buildings with catchy names are well-known, what is remarkable is just how many buildings over 200m are being built, and how few there are currently.
The problem is that many of these buildings are pretty uninspiring. For every Shard or Gherkin, there are several bland towers. Here’s a list (it’s a Google doc) and here is an excellent diagram-based list.
Of the nine 200m plus buildings listed above in London, only one is built – One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. The rest are all in construction, or about to be. The cranes are going up.
Of the 26 150m plus buildings, only two were built earlier than 2000 – again, One Canada Square and Tower 42.
What does this mean? London is not about to join the list of mega-skyscraper cities, where Hong Kong, New York and others are way ahead in terms of height and number. But this is a changing of a city.
Big buildings have impact – both in terms of inspiring residents and attracting tourists, but also in the gusts of wind around their base, the anonymous and impersonal nature of their function, and the sense of detatchment they can create.
London is a modern city which competes with New York, HK, Singapore and others on the world stage. But it did so successfully without building up up up. Is there a need now?
London is often described as a city of villages. It is becoming a city of mid-sized but imposing skyscrapers. I’m not sure it is any the better for that. Welcome to London – the new monolithia.