Skyscrapers are relatively new to London. Your parents probably remember when the tallest structures they could see around London were the chimneys of Battersea Power Station or the radio towers of Crystal Palace. Like Paris, London was largely a low-rise city, with strict restrictions on tall buildings.
All that changed in 1980 with the completion of London’s first skyscraper, Tower 42, often called the NatWest Tower. By 1991 London had its own skyscraper skyline at Canary Wharf, featuring some of the tallest buildings in Europe.
When the new Shard London Bridge opens this summer, London will be home to Europe’s tallest skyscraper.
The Shard will rise 309.6 metres into the clouds (that’s just over 70 double decker buses, or 1,032 boxes of Shreddies stacked on top of each other). As a landmark these buildings are hugely impressive. But how much effort is going into ensuring their sustainability, and “green credentials”?
That’s exactly what a seminar hosted by Ecobuild set out to debate. On the panel was our favourite structural engineer, Jane Wernick, who also worked on the London Eye, fighting the side AGAINST tall buildings.
Jane argued that despite their impressive design and impact, very tall buildings are difficult to maintain in the long term, they give little to the community at ground level, and have been shown to be associated with various mental health disorders such as anxiety and claustrophobia.
There’s no doubt that skyscrapers are awe-inspiring structures, and with the cost of land always increasing there will always be demand to build bigger and higher.
The Ecobuild debate, however, shows that we also need to consider the sustainability of these buildings, for example utilising solar shading or intelligent design that allows easy future modifications.
The debate will no doubt continue. You can read a summary of Ecobuild’s seminar from The Architect Journal here: http://goo.gl/DEgEG
Let us know what you think. Would you rather your city was more like Dubai? Or Paris?