Friday 12 July 2013

Too Many Tall Buildings

My Boris Johnson
Weathervane plan
for the Shard.
I've given some attention to tall buildings in the past few weeks and months, from serene campaniles to Sixties campuses.

Today Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, wrote in the Guardian about the colossal towers soon to spring up in developments all over London; what they will be for; who says yes or no; and why anyone wants them.  As you might guess, he is largely in the "against" position.

Here is the piece:  Who let this Gulf on Thames scar London?  Mayor Boris.

In the last decade, mayor Ken Livingstone was all about tall buildings and the futuristic lens-flare of prosperity that would bounce off their gleaming fa├žades and all over London.  Now Jenkins is pointing the finger at Boris Johnson for opposing in principle and allowing in practice.

Otto's illustration for the Guardian. 

Jenkins writes:  "Towers imply civic leadership weak in the face of commercial pressure. They are not "vital" to the urban economy, least of all in a low-density city such as London. The last rash of speculative towers such as Centre Point in the 1970s mostly lay empty until rented for government offices. Today's are not built for people to use but as sleeping bank accounts for funk money. The Shard may well stay largely empty, like One Hyde Park and the palaces of Palm Island, Dubai. The rich may own them, but not inhabit them."

London in 2259, in Star Trek Into Darkness.

To me, the Shard, Heron Tower, the Walkie Talkie, the Cheesegrater and all the coming statements of bigness were referenced - almost satirised - in the new Star Trek, as the early phase of a monolithic sprouting all over the city (which, I admit, is hardly new).  What do you think?  Are your eyes set twinkling, or do you see a future of grand embarrassment over empty projects, or grim dystopia?

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