Towering Plans Get Vauxhall Cross

By M@ Last edited 153 months ago
Towering Plans Get Vauxhall Cross

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.

Last Updated 20 July 2005

Colin Gregory Palmer

Looks pretty damn ugly to me. What ever happened to the Shard of Glass and the Vortex? Much better.


Add an ongoing arc of electricity at the top and call it the Spark Plug...

Ahhh - modern architecture.



It's too pathetically uninspired to even be ugly.

And what DID happen to the Shard of Glass?


P.S. Barbican? Grim? Philistines...


"So we reserve judgment until we see the finished article" ?? It will be a bit too late by then. You need confidence in your own judgement now. Personally I think it stinks - just one more example of a new building trying to bully its way over the surrounding environment. And on past experience of the Gherkin etc. I'm dam well sure the ordinary public will never be allowed inside it.


Agreed. It does look quite plain. But then it's a flat, grey drawing. Perhaps it'll look much better when we see it in real life, with sunlight reflecting on the glass, the roof turbine spinning. Or perhaps not. I'd imagine that most people are quite happy these days with the BT Tower, and that looks even uglier on paper than this new tower.

WRT the Shard of Glass, it is still on the cards. Last I heard, demolition of the current building on that site (occupied by PriceWaterhouseCooper) will begin in summer 2006 and take a year. So construction should begin in 2007. They've also found willing tennants for some of the floors (a hotel chain, I think), which is a good sign that building will go ahead.


As a resident of Vauxhall I've got to say that those 5 (count them: 5!) green MI6-HQ-clones next to the bus station at Vauxhall cross are amongst some of the ugliest buildings in London.

So if it's the same people behind this project they've got a lot of work to do before they convince me.


Link to a mock-up view of the tower and Rob's 'MI6-HQ-clones' at night.


id say this is a better example of it.


Vauxhall looks shite now anyway with the latest St George tower blocks, so does another one really matter anymore?

So long as it doesn't interrupt Geoffrey's sightlines.