London’s Growing Up

This is the title of a study undertaken by New London Architecture, on the impact of new tall buildings appearing across London.   An exhibition at the Building Centre in Store Street, London WC1 includes photos and models,showing the impact on London’s skyline.

Most of these buildings have yet to be constructed.  Some 130 now have planning approval and a further 100 or so are at earlier stages in the planning process.

It is a wave of tall buildings of the like the capital has never seen.  The exhibition and report traces why tall buildings fell out of fashion, and the reasons why this trend has sharply reversed.  These are to do with shrinking construction costs and London’s ludicrous residential values.  Over 80% of the 236 buildings covered in the study are residential towers, rather than offices.  This boom in tall building is not about servicing the accommodation needs of the City.  It is about what maximises profit for speculative developers.

To what extent these towers will provide actual homes for people is a hotly disputed issue in London.   Increasing evidence points to the high proportion of new-build apartments sold off-plan and offshore, treated largely as a way of banking capital, and occupied for only a few weeks a year if at all.

The tower at Imperial West features at Number 29 in the study.  Its proposed companion, the 32 storey tower approved as part of the Brickfields development just south of the Westway, features as Number 27.

While the Brickfields project will not be built as approved (Imperial College having since acquired the site) there is every sign that the College will exploit the building heights and densities of the planning approval that it has inherited.

Most of the very tall buildings in the pipeline in London are clustered on the South Bank (Vauxhall and around the Shard), in the City, or in East London boroughs (Tower Hamlets alone has 23% of the total).  There are few in inner West London, apart from Paddington Basin.  Imperial College, backed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, appear determined to create a new cluster all on its own.  Development at the Old Oak HS2/Crossrail hub north of Wormwood Scrubs will doubtless follow.

One of the most powerful parts of the exhibition is a display of the views of London from several key vantage points, such as Greenwich and Primrose Hill.  Using time lapsed images, the skyline fills with the 236 buildings in the study.  As the report says, in its dispassionate and understated way, ‘the scale of the change revealed in the study will come as a surprise to many’.

The future view of Vauxhall is below.  Others can be seen in the Guardian piece at this link

The view of Vauxhall