London’s recent skyscraper boom : What does it symbolise for the future of the city?


A rendered image of London’s future skyline (Source: City AM)

London was recently named the most desirable city to work in the world, beating close competitors New York and Berlin, despite the UK failing to attract overseas workers post-Brexit. This does not come as a surprise since the skyscraper boom that has taken the capital by storm over the past decade, coincides with an increased appetite for economic dominance on the world stage.

Historically, as a city, London has not been known for its skyline which is commonplace for cities in North America and the Far East. It has always maintained a reputation for being a ‘low-rise’ city for the wish of preserving many sites of historical and cultural significance.  In 2008, I remember only the Gherkin and Tower 42 being fairly prominent as legitimate ‘skyscrapers’ enough to command attention for a person to look up towards. The situation is completely different in 2018.

With billions being invested into these goliath structures, especially by Asian investors, it will be interesting to see if London is just being turned into a playing ground for the financial elite. This only increases the plight of ordinary Londoners who continue to face soaring rents – not to mention, increased claustrophobia – and are being driven out of their localities as a result. I suppose the relaxation of height restrictions imposed on buildings in the 1960s coupled with the success of the Canary Wharf district has allowed firms to regain confidence in continuing to push London’s skyscraper offering in the 21st century.

Take a stroll through the City, and two major developments are taking shape. 

22 Bishopsgate, London

22 Bishopsgate (above) at 278m (912ft) is set to become the tallest building in the City overtaking Heron Tower and will occupy a prominent site in the financial district. Of course, the Civil Aviation Authority was instrumental in the descaling in height of the tower (originally planned to be 307m) for fear of obstructing symbolic structures such as St Paul’s Cathedral nearby (and frankly annoying a lot of people in the process).

It is the exact same reason why skyscrapers such as the Leadenhall Building (“ The Cheesegrater ”) and the Scalpel (pictured below) have been designed with distinctive, angular shapes in mind to make way for views of surrounding cultural structures.  I do not see London stopping its skyscraper craze anytime soon. After having been away from the city for the past 3 years whilst attending university, it has amazed me how quickly these properties are being built in a record amount of time!

52-54 Lime Street, also known as 'The Scalpel'

Is London quickly becoming like any other Asian city wishing to build even higher? This is difficult to deduce. We do possess some of the most expensive real estate in the world. With rising population growth, and not to mention being an island nation with limited space, sometimes the solution is really building up. Hong Kong is a good example to look at. Such tight, valuable space with prices calculated to the last square inch, it is no surprise why many are also choosing to live higher. High-rise living is quickly becoming the norm and as this new lifestyle continues to pervade our everyday existence, London is most definitely jumping on the bandwagon.

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