28 Sep 2011

The Changing Face of the City of London

I've been working on and off in London for 19 years now, and it is barely recognisable compared with the skyline back in 1992. Canary Wharf just about existed then (only the main tower - 1 Canada Square - had been built by the early 1990s). Windows were still boarded up from IRA bombings. Things have changed. I've had a few periods abroad in my life and every time I come back, a few more skyscrapers seem to have popped up. But now even after a few months away from the City of London I return to find a new tower. I wandered around this afternoon and took a few shots of the buildings.

The newest addition to the City's skyline (the Shard aside as it's still under construction) is the Heron Tower, sitting on the corner of Bishopsgate and Camomile Street (leading to Bevis Marks - the site of my first City summer job back in 1992). 
There used to be an ugly Norton Rose building on this site, but I guess this was pulled down a few years ago. The Heron Tower was designed by architects Kohn Pedersen Fox and was completed in 2010 (originally approved by John Prescott, to be the same height as Tower 42 - the old NatWest Tower - but this was increased on appeal). It reaches 230m including a 28m mast; the third tallest building in the UK, after 1 Canada Square and the Shard (when it's finished). This winter there will be a branch of Sushi Samba opening in the tower (my favourite restaurant chain in the US - a mix of Japanese, Peruvian and Brasilian food) - can't wait!

While working in the City a few years ago I watched the Gherkin going up, floor by floor. Every week it seemed as if a new floor had appeared. The official name is the Swiss Re Building, but most people know it as the Gherkin.
It's built on the site of the Baltic Exchange on St. Mary Axe, which was damaged by an IRA bomb in April 1992. The building was designed by Norman Foster and Arup engineers, built by Skanska and completed in 2003. It towers above older buildings such as the St. Andrew Undershaft Church. At least the City has some old buildings nestled in its undergrowth, unlike the rather characterless Canary Wharf; it just has a shopping mall underneath.

Heading down to London Bridge the skyline is also changing dramatically. On the north side of the bridge is one of my favourite old buildings - Adelaide House, an imposing art deco building dating back to 1925.
It was one of the first buildings in London to have air conditioning, an internal mail system and a putting green on the roof. Renovated in 2007 it now houses the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner. For some reason there is a bit on the right hand side that ruins the symmetry - it looks as if it was added at a later date.

Built in 1986 on the south side of London Bridge is one of my favourite modern buildings, No 1 London Bridge - although it's not that modern now. 
It was designed by the John S. Bonnington Partnership. It has a lot of different tenants, most of which appear to be charities. Behind No 1 London Bridge is the Shard, which sits on top of London Bridge station, replacing the old PwC Southwark Towers.
It's been under construction since 2009, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and when completed in 2012 it will be the tallest building in the European Union (although only the 45th tallest in the world, at 310m or 1,017ft tall). There was a lot of controversy over the height and design, but as with the Heron Tower John Prescott signed it off , saying that he was satisfied that the design was of the highest architectural quality. Some might argue that Prezza has destroyed the London skyline.... It certainly has changed since 1993. With the Heron Tower and Shard it has changed dramatically since 2009. I'll wait until the Shard is finished before I pass final judgment, but I'm not too keen on its position away from the rest of the tall buildings. You can see it from a long way away.

On my way back to Monument station I stopped on London Bridge when I saw this woman with an umbrella taking photos of Tower Bridge in the distance.  Everyone else walking past did a double-take.
Okay, so it was warm today (about 25 degrees C) but it really wasn't that hot. This is not south-east Asia, this is London. In September.

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