Lon­don’s sky­line re­flects the boom

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Vertical City 1pm, Life­Style Greg Cal­laghan

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

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