The Prince And The Towers

By M@ Last edited 123 months ago
The Prince And The Towers

Well known architectural pundit Prince ‘Chuckles’ Charles gives the London skyline a right royal disapproval:

Not just one carbuncle on the face of a much loved old friend, but a positive rash of them that will disfigure precious views and disinherit future generations of Londoners.

Says the grey heir.

Charles was born in 1948, so the lamented ‘old friend’ he loves so much must be the shabby, bombed-out city of the 1950s. And those precious views were no doubt glimpsed on the rare days when the city wasn’t shrouded in killer smog.

To be fair to the heir, he makes some sound points about ensuring London doesn’t become a facsimile world city, “with the same homogenised buildings that express nothing but outdated sustainability."

Nobody wants that. But nor is this the way London is going. At least in the City, which seems to be the focus of the Prince’s comments, a number of very distinctive towers are underway or planned. And even the old ones are being jazzed up.

London will never be an homogenised city. It’s beauty lies in its heterogeneity — a Wren church here, a glass bank there; a 17th Century coffee house through one arch and Darth Vader’s helmet through another. Adding sleek, tapering towers only enriches the admixture.

Anyway, throughout the endless iterations of this argument, there’s one point everyone seems to miss. London will always need new buildings in large numbers to suit the changing markets. Whether they are lowrise, midrise or skyscrapers, each requires a bevy of construction cranes. View the city from any vantage point and you’ll find it cluttered with countless cantilevers.

There is no beautiful skyline — no clear view of St Paul’s or the Tower, and there never will be until they invent antigravity construction techniques. Those precious views are a myth.

Last Updated 01 February 2008


The Tower of London is by the river so of course there is a clear view of it.

The skyline of London is enjoyed from Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill, Greenwich, the South Bank, and countless other places listed in the Mayor's own View Management Framework.

The Gherkin and some of the towers planned look pretty cool. But it's not just about views and looks. These massive penile structures cause incredible downdraught and wind at ground level, block light, can be a terror target, and are accompanied by little or no improvement to Underground capacity or cycle networks.

The office market is slow in London now anyway, which is why the Shard at London Bridge probably won't be as tall as planned. Most of the towers planned are predominantly residential or hotels. They're built tall to make expensive duplex apartments for foreign investors, and hotels for the same.

Reading into the London office market or property spending habits of non-doms is boring but instructive!