London’s skyline reflects the boom
THE view from the top floor of Britain’s highest building, One Canada Square, the centrepiece of London’s new financial district, is breathtaking: a 360- degree panorama taking in the long, twisting trail of the Thames, the stately Houses of Parliament, the 18th- century splendour of Greenwich and, farther to the east, the gherkin- shaped Swiss Re building, England’s new architectural symbol. Completed in 1991, One Canada Square kick- started the revival of London’s Docklands and created the space for a booming new commercial district to emerge.
‘‘ It’s because of Canary Wharf that London is now the world’s financial capital,’’ says Charlie Luxton, host of this instalment of Vertical City , a new 10- part series that tells the story — architectural, commercial and political — behind a host of the world’s best- known skyscrapers. Another Charlie, Prince Charles of the Windsors, has been very vocal in his opposition to the frenzy of high- rise construction gripping the English capital ( where at least 20 tall buildings are under construction).
What he overlooks is that many of these new towers will be architectural masterpieces, most notably the 72- storey London Bridge Tower, a triangle of shimmering glass designed by Renzo Piano that will reflect the changing patterns of the sky. The Shard, as it has been nicknamed ( as have many of the skyscrapers about to pop up on the London skyline), will replace a grotty, flat- topped box that was erected after World War II.
Only seven years ago, as clouds of smoke and dust rose up from the rubble of New York’s World Trade Centre, the curtain seemed to be coming down on the skyscraper, at least in Western countries. The super towers seemed too irresistible a target for terrorists, and mega projects were canned across the US and Europe.
Donald Trump swiftly shelved plans to build the highest residential tower in the world and the media was braying that the skyscraper had become a dinosaur.
But it took only three or four years for the zeitgeist to switch again; now Trump, among a slew of projects, is building a super- tall residential skyscraper in Dubai.
In the booming economies of Asia and the oil- rich Middle East, the frenzy of skyscraper construction never slackened, with the result that seven of the world’s 10 tallest skyscrapers are located in Asia. By 2012, Shanghai and Beijing will boast more tall buildings than New York. A faltering global economy is likely, at most, to merely slow the frantic pace of high- rise construction.
If nothing else, Vertical City shows viewers through a range of projects ( including Melbourne’s Eureka Tower in episode six and Q1 on the Queensland’s Gold Coast in episode nine), how the skyscraper is tailormade for the 21st century.
Life at the top: Charlie Luxton in Vertical City