If you compare London’s skyline ten years ago to what it is today you’ll see it’s drastically changed. Favourites like Westminster Palace, Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral obviously remain. Newer, striking, additions to the skyline include the London Eye, the Gherkin and other skyscrapers. Yet over the past decade huge towers have been built, adding thousands of yards of office space and adding a new perspective to the capital’s skyline.
The Heron Tower at Bishopsgate, The Cheesegrater, The Walkie Talkie and The Shard truly feel as though they scrape the sky but have also transformed the city’s skyline. These buildings, a combination of office space, leisure and private accommodation also reflect a shift in the socio-economic makeup of the capital and who it attracts.
Standing at 755ft high, the Heron Tower is colloquially referred to as the Salesforce Tower, because of its biggest tenant. It’s the tallest building in the City, the third tallest in London. Completed in 2011 it is 90% leased.
The Cheesegrater – official address 122 Leadenhall Street – opened in 2014 and is 737 ft tall. 10 floors of it are filled by the insurance broker Aon, which moved its global headquarters from Chicago to London and a second insurance group Amlin who took 111,000 sq ft across the 18th to 24th floors.
Illustrating how controversial skyscrapers can be, only a week ago, the Walkie Talkie (or 20 Fenchurch Street to give it its actual address) was awarded the Carbuncle Cup, a title which criticizes bad design. At 34 storeys high and 525ft tall, its distinctive shape has not only made it eye-catching but has been blamed for a number of problems, notably solar glare where reflected sunlight for two hours day was blamed for damaging parked cars. Its sky garden has been criticised for the tight restrictions on the visiting public and advance bookings while the design of the garden itself has also been scorned. The building has also been accused of creating a wind tunnel at street level.
The Shard at London Bridge was topped out in 2012, opening to the public a year later. Standing at 1,016 ft high it is the joint 92nd tallest building in the world and the tallest building in the EU. With restaurants, the Shangri-La Hotel, offering a leisure element to the building it is also home to law firm Mathys & Squire, Al Jazeera’s second largest hub outside of Doha, The Office Group, Robert Half International and Greenberg Traurig.
These high rise towers give a fresh perspective in London, attracting global businesses looking for prestigious addresses. This drive in attracting global firms is good for employment for the rest of the capital. It means that people can continue to rely on the City to provide quality jobs. It strengthens London’s reputation as a global hub and this filters into different sectors, including hospitality. For us at Clarendon, travelling business means people looking for flexible accommodation. The luxury apartments in skyscrapers might be out of the price range of most employees, an extended stay serviced apartment offers central living at a fraction of the price.
Skyscrapers will continue to be controversial but they are a feature of city and business life, markers of the global business elite that London is part and parcel of.