It’s tall and ungainly, of uncertain worth, and will look slightly out of place in its surroundings. No, we’re not talking about the signing of Peter Crouch to augment the Liverpool forward line-up, but the nascent Vauxhall Tower, which has just been given the green light by John Prescott.
Looking something akin to a well-fed BT Tower, the monolithic high-rise will be constructed behind those new green and white apartment blocks at St George’s Wharf, Vauxhall. The riverside skyscraper is set to be the tallest residential building in Europe, at a height of 181 m (that's 591 ft in old money, just a little shorter than the aforementioned BT Tower). It's not the most graceful erection we've ever clapped eyes on, but it's certainly an advance on the grim tower blocks of the Barbican, which are currently the UK's tallest. A generous 40% of the tower will comprise so-called 'affordable' housing with the rest going to people with lots and lots and lots of money.
Predictably, there's been a bit of a backlash by local residents, heritage groups and Tory MPs, who claim the tower is out of place, and will interfere with important riverside views. (Really? In Vauxhall?) Further cause for grievance is the way the planning permission was announced – seemingly by Chinese Whispers last Friday rather than a dedicated press release. The Standard claims that Prescott authorised the development in direct contradiction to the findings of planning inspectors, who found the design to be of 'insufficient quality'. (Sorry, no link, you’ll have to get hold of a paper copy.) Really working up the vitriol, Rowan Moore, the Standard's architecture critic describes the approval as
"so epic in its dumbness that it will leave future generations goggling in disbelief."
Similar things are said every time a tall building is approved – the 'Gherkin' was particularly lambasted until it was built - so we reserve judgment till we see the finished article. Whatever your opinion of the designs (and we'd like to hear them), the glass and steel folly comes with one unique feature, which the damning Standard report and editorial neglect to mention: a rooftop wind turbine that will provide half of the tower's energy needs. So, one way or another, there's plenty more hot air to be blown over this one.