London's Smallest Skyscraper

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 25 months ago
London's Smallest Skyscraper

Googling a definition of skyscraper produces: a very tall building, of many storeys. Essentially a bundle of vagueness that doesn't mean very much. A wise man once said: the skyscraper is in the eye of the beholder. Ok, so maybe we just made it up but it holds true anyway.

Stock Exchange Tower on the right. Photo: ShrubMonkey (Julian Heritage)

First we're going to define what a skyscraper is, before we can decide how small one can be. We've found two useful definitions, Emporis a real estate data company, define a skyscraper as: "a multi-storey building whose architectural height is at least 100 metres."

Perhaps a more complete set of parameters — or at least more pedantic — is given by architect Owen Hatherley. He claims that a building needs three things to qualify as a skyscraper; a steel or concrete frame, a lift, and at least 10 storeys. Hatherley qualifies the last point by saying that nowadays most people wouldn't consider a building a skyscraper unless it had 30 storeys. Which in all honesty clarifies very little, so thanks for nothing Owen.

It used to be readily agreed that London's smallest skyscraper was the unfinished and now demolished Pinnacle. Lovingly referred to as The Stump, the building only ever reached 7 storeys and therefore doesn't actually qualify as a skyscraper using the Hatherley method. So we set off to discover London's true smallest skyscraper.

The Stump. Photo: Matt Brown

Using the Emporis method, the Stock Exchange Tower is the winner, landing right on the 100 metre bullseye. At 27 storeys high, it massively overshoots Hatherley's definition, though he also seems to claim that this wouldn't be recognised by most people. Again, not so helpful.

The Stock Exchange Tower is interesting in that it's actually smaller than St Paul's Cathedral (111m at its highest point), which led us to wonder whether that counted as a skyscraper. The answer gets murky here, but then again you're reading an article on London's smallest skyscraper, so we doubt you were expecting scientific precision.

St Paul's is over 100 metres high and has a lift (for accessibility purposes). It's impossible to count the number of storeys in the cathedral, as there are so many stray rooms dotted all over (see below for more). St Paul's lacks the skyscraper shape, but that doesn't matter (as proven elegantly by the Chinese Central Television Headquarters). So we're hereby proclaiming St Paul's Cathedral a skyscraper.

Back to the idea of the smallest skyscraper and we decided to return to Hatherley's method. The problem is, if were to follow that route stringently, it would be nigh on impossible to discover London's smallest skyscraper. There are hundreds of 10 storey blocks of flats with a lift across the city and it just isn't possible to crown a clear winner. So, if you're living in a 10 storey block of flats, you might be living in the smallest skyscraper in London and just not know it.

Think you know London's smallest skyscraper, or possibly even live in it? Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 05 December 2016