The Ridiculous Gimmicks Of London's Skyscrapers

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 20 months ago
The Ridiculous Gimmicks Of London's Skyscrapers

As people in hard hats patrol an increasing number of dusty construction sites across the capital, there's an increasing need to make new developments stand out from the pack. These regularly take the form of gimmicks, to lend high-rises a bit of buzz. Often, such gimmicks verge on the ridiculous.

Strata SE1 topped by the world's most pointless turbines. Photo: Konstantin Binder

Strata SE1

Strata really shouldn't be on this list. Its gimmick is truly excellent. Wind turbines creating power from a renewable energy source is something that needs to be celebrated, not mocked. Except they're never on.

At which point the tower's gimmick becomes having wind turbines that are completely pointless.

Embassy Gardens

So a gimmick can be ridiculous and quite cool. Case in point: the upcoming Sky Pool in Nine Elms. We'd quite like to swim in a pool suspended 25 metres in the air — the closest perhaps, you'll get to feeling like you're flying unaided over the city. Unfortunately we probably won't have that honour — it's just for residents.


Rock climbing is ascending in popularity, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that a smart architect somewhere has decided to shove a climbing wall into a skyscraper.

This is perhaps the most interesting gimmick on our list, as most climbing centres we've been to have a strong sense of community. That might be hard to recreate in a mostly corporate skyscraper; then again, Twentytwo is aiming to be a "truly social workplace". Their words not ours.

As a quick aside, the mock-up photo released to build hype for the announcement seems to have had little involvement from any actual climbers. The person on the wall had one foot on a blue route and the other on a red. In other words, she's cheating. Climbing pedant rant over.

The Spire

Here we have a possibly — we say possibly because how could they not notice? — unintentional gimmick. Building your tower in the shape of a big penis. It certainly scored The Spire column inches. No pun intended.

Photo: Lars Ploughman

Tabard Square Tower

Two American tourists have gotten a little lost on their way back from Borough Market and spot a guiding light to save them.

"What's that off in the distance, honey?"

"Why I think it's a beacon atop a building, that changes colour depending on barometric pressure, darling."

"Oh OK. That definitely makes sense."

So perhaps that was slightly fictionalised. After all, no uninitiated person espying the light atop Tabard Square Tower could know what they were looking at. The beacon is lit throughout the day, but the strength varies in accordance with the light outside it. It's best seen at sunset, after that it's significantly dimmed so it doesn't emit too much light pollution. How thoughtful.

See also: the golden tide ball atop Belvedere Tower.

Photo: James Beard

Battersea Power Station

You might be thinking the gimmick here is turning an iconic London landmark into flats and restaurants but you'd be wrong. Instead the gimmick here is very few affordable homes for Londoners. We'd have gone for an inflatable pig, but oh well.

Can you think of any we've missed out? Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 07 July 2017