There was a time not too long ago when St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building within view of the River Thames. The wonderful piece of architecture famously designed by Sir Christopher Wren, took pride of place on the riverside skyline with the steeples of nearby churches standing in deference to their big brother.
Then along came the NatWest Tower in the City of London that took nine years to build from 1971 and the gloves were off.
Further to the east Canary Wharf Building topped this when completed in 1990, but this was far enough out of Central London to not interfere with London’s historic skyline. For twenty years the Canary Wharf tower remained as London’s tallest building.
This then appeared to be the template for further skyscrapers, creating a new financial district similar to La Defense in Paris. Like the sensible and sensitive Parisians we would protect our iconic river view in the capital.
Indeed, the likes of Citigroup, HSBC and Barclays erected vast monoliths alongside Canary Wharf to replace their scattered central offices, creating a mini Manhattan in the process.
Things started to change in the new millennium with the planners seemingly approving every project submitted both north and south of the River. We now have the likes of the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) , the Walkie Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street) and the Cheesegrater (122 Leadenhall Street) to give them their nicknames.
Then along came the big daddy of them all in the Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building, which was completed in 2010. It is 95 storeys and 309.6 metres (1,016 ft) high and can be seen for miles around in all directions.
There are others either part way built or in the pipeline, the City seemingly hell bent on reaching for the skies with little thought for the aesthetics.
You can probably tell that I am not a great fan of London’s ‘new’ skyline. Enough is enough in my opinion and I would certainly advocate no more high building within eyeshot of the Thames in Central London.
What do you think – the taller the better or stay low?