They have started building 20 Fenchurch - again?
As the recession appears to lighten, high-rise buildings, put on hold
for the past months, are beginning to reach for the London cloudscape
all over again.Watered by fresh finance, the towers back in
business include the hugely controversial "walkie-talkie" and the
soaring "cheese-grater". Every City skyscraper has to have a pet name
today. This gives it a kind of cuddly cartoon character and makes it
seem more friendly than its true role as a machine for making, and
losing, money in can ever really be.
walkie-talkie – so called since it looks more like an out-of-date mobile
phone – is a bulky, concave structure rising up from the site of 20
Fenchurch Street. Its design, by the Uruguayan-born American architect
Rafael Viñoly, was unveiled in 2006. After much protest, not least from
English Heritage, it re-emerged slightly shorter, only to be held down
by the collapse of the markets. Its saving grace is that it will boast a
public roof garden, viewing gallery and restaurant, something few City
towers have the grace to offer.
The cheese-grater, at 122
Leadenhall Street, is a more subtle design by Rogers Stirk Harbour, yet
it is still enormous compared with recent City buildings. Resembling
half a ziggurat, or at least half a ziggurat seen through a 21st-century
lens, the 225-metre-high tower is an attempt to build as high as
possible without imposing too forcefully on the views and baroque
majesty of Wren's St Paul's Cathedral.
Even then, these Square
Mile towers, along with the 288-metre-high "helter skelter" (aka the
Pinnacle, or the Bishopsgate tower, designed by the American architects
Kohn Pedersen Fox) and the 230-metre-high Heron tower – a "six-star
office block" says its modest developer, Gerald Ronson – also by KPF,
are to be overshadowed in 2012 by the "shard". This is the
310-metre-high skyscraper, designed by Renzo Piano, shooting up on the
south side of London Bridge.
Behemoths all of them, but an
architectural sign that the City of London is back in action doing what,
for better or worse, it can't help itself doing: recreating itself like
some monstrous phoenix made of gold coins. When you remember that the
some of the buildings these new towers replaced were just 40 years old,
the aim of the City is clear. Money. Above all else, and with buildings
that look as much like giant pound and dollar signs on the London
skyline as they do shards, cheese-graters, helter skelters or