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The Good and Bad of London's Changing Architectural Face

Author : David Strydom

12 January 2015

Skyscrapers are sprouting up all over London. Some decry the loss of the capital's traditional cityscape, dismissing, for instance, the Walkie Talkie's lack of context. But nobody can deny how exciting and dramatic the city's transformation has been.

When I arrived in the UK in 2003, the City of London skyline was virtually flat. If you stood on the South Bank near City Hall, gazing north, the Tower of London gazed back with a defiance born of historic gravitas. Far to the left, in Fitzrovia, was the skinny BT Tower (60 Cleveland Mews, 191m, built 1961) - not tall by today's standards, but conspicuous nonetheless.

Further right was Tower 42 (25 Old Broad Street, 183m, 1981), with its distinctive black knob looking for all the world like the release button on a vertical gearstick. And dead ahead, looming spaceship-like behind the Tower, was Norman Foster's magnificent, bullet-shaped 'erotic gherkin'. (30 St Mary Axe, 180m, 2001).

Other, less detectable buildings peeped through the concrete jungle - Centre Point (117m, 1963), Lloyd's Building (95m, 1986), the Stock Exchange Tower (101m, 1970). But, by and large, they hardly held court in the City of London.

Fast forward 12 years, and it's all change. Who would have thought the cityscape could have changed so dramatically in just over a decade? Now there are four additional, very conspicuous structures, and collectively they completely dominate the skyline.

The first to complete was Heron Tower (110 Bishopsgate, 202m, 2011), a straight up-and-down pile with a distinctive antenna which raises the tower's height by 28m. It took the architects Kohn Pedersen Fox four years to complete the project, and it now holds the distinction of being the tallest building in the City of London.

In 2014, a glut of new skyscrapers came to fruition - although none were destined to be as 'ordinary' as the Heron Tower.

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