World Architecture Festival 2016
The Sky’s The Limit
What with recently reading Dezeen’s article stating that that there are 119 new tall buildings planned for London, it got us thinking about our current obsession with skyscrapers.
Indeed only last week my wife sent me a nighttime photo of countless illuminated cranes on WhatsApp, declaring wonder at all the activity on the London skyline. Unfortunately, she mistakenly sent this to a friends group message giving an unwanted insight into our marital communication, although I must confess I was rather excited by the sight of all those erections!
London’s built fabric is evolving and changing at an impressive rate, but London has a character quite different from other cities usually associated with tall buildings, owing to the labyrinthine nature of it’s historic streets and their relatively narrow span. Tall buildings are not given the same breathing space as they are in for example New York where the generous gridded street network has been designed to accommodate such structures and its entire character is defined by the verticality of the city.
In London clusters of buildings bloom and are left exposed and vulnerable to the scrutiny of the public eye. This has led to some bold statements as Architects take advantage of the opportunity to showcase designs and embellish London’s reputation as the global finance centre.
Aside from economising on inflated land prices, we as humans are compelled to build high in order to echo those feelings of the sublime found when amongst nature. A heady mix of awe and terror as we attempt to compete with natural phenomena and take ownership of our own potential to develop technology in order to achieve ever more impressive feats.
Projects in London continue to push the boundaries of technological advancement. We attract the very best of developers and Architects resulting in state of the art, world class buildings.
Three of the projects I am most looking forward to are:
404 Park Drive – Herzog and DeMeuron
Herzog and DeMeuron have long been one of my favourite Architects from back in the day when they were the quintessential Swiss Modernists. They are incredibly agile designers who have evolved from silent, elegant Architecture to bold avant-garde experimental schemes and have somehow managed to excel in both. This scheme emulates the current zeitgeist for sophisticated broken massing that departs from the more common homogenous steel and glass approach. I love the texture and the transparency of the variety in spaces.
ManHattan Lofts – SOM
SOM are the Godfather of skyscrapers having nurtured the talents of the late great Fazlur Rahmen Khan himself. The pioneering engineer who developed “tubular design” principles that revolutionised skyscraper design and allowed for taller and far more robust buildings that could sustain the huge forces imposed skyscrapers by installing structure on the envelop of the building. SOM have an enviable portfolio of tall building including the current tallest in the world the “Burj Khalifa”. Manhattan Lofts is a departure from their usual style and I like it for the playfulness of the volumes and massing, and it’s solid, self assured materiality. I can imagine a series of charming investigative physical models exploring the form.
The Spire – HOK
HOK are a hugely diverse practice with a portfolio of stunning buildings in any sector you can think of and this skyscraper is one of their finest works. It is a rare example of a contextually designed skyscraper, that takes its cues from its surroundings. The form resembles the prow of a ship which nods to the sites history as a dock as well as providing opportunity for an interesting plan. There has also been much consideration for the how the building meets the ground, which is something that a surprising number of tall buildings neglect.
There are many other projects which I am eagerly awaiting and I feel we are in a particularly exciting period for tall buildings in London. One criticism often aimed at skyscrapers is their disengagement with local communities and the irreparable damage to the character of the urban fabric. I feel that change is inevitable and without taking measures such as allowing for the greenbelt to be developed it seems the only way is up. But developers and the government do have a duty of care to the city and as long as the city’s need are met, for example the provision of enough affordable homes, then I think this can be a great era for all.
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