Category Archives: Architecture

Looking on the Bright Side

There is a 48 hour strike by London Underground tube workers at the moment.

I’m loath to comment on my feelings for this as I’ve not investigated the plight of the ticket office staff who stand to be made redundant if the offices are closed as planned, so consequently I’m not sure whether to empathise with them or not.

The impact is a severely limited service for 48 hours for the millions of commuters who rely on the tube service to get from the many mainline stations in London across the city to their work destinations. Clearly with a sudden outflow to ‘other’ modes of transport (bus, taxis, Boris-bikes and shank’s pony) the roads and pavements were going to be full this morning.

Vanilla Skyline
Vanilla Skyline

I chose to walk from Waterloo though and the weather, for once, played ball, and my reward was a stunning view of the London skyline silhouetted against a vanilla sky.

It got me thinking about the positives of such a situation, and although I probably don’t need it, the extra exercise I have been forced into and even the extra food I can now eat, will certainly prove a positive!

Every cloud has a silver lining 😆

The Pinnacle Of Atrophy

Imagine my surprise when, after over a year of inactivity, I saw the cranes towering above the Pinnacle construction site, actually moving, on my morning stroll to work this morning.

As I have reported previously, the Pinnacle is due to be the tallest building within the square mile of the City of London, upon its completion, but building work on the central concrete spine has been stalled at the 7th floor since January of 2012 due to a lack of funding as a consequence of pre-letting contractual terms. Heaven only knows how much the ‘leasing’ of three lumbering giants of cranes, lying static on the site is costing, but it is surely affecting the bottom line of the capital implementation costs.

The giants awake
The giants awake

Yesterday and today, there was visible activity with the behemoth structures, but there did not seem to be any other signs of ‘life’ around the site, so I am dubious as to whether this indicates progress, or merely a twitch prior to deeper sleep. Indeed, there has been nothing in the media recently regarding the recommencement of construction, so I pessimistically suspect the latter.

If people coursing through the streets are the life blood of a city, and the buildings are its muscles, we should certainly be worried about the atrophy in our capital city at the moment. There is some growth, but it is by no means consistent and the amount of stagnation is worrying with unused offices for let a constant reminder of the hard times we are currently experiencing.

It seems the recession is affecting all sorts of areas and nowhere, especially construction and infrastructure is immune from the impact. Investment is needed in these areas to kick start the economy from its current flatlining though, and the sooner the Government releases supply side reforms and demand side incentives, the better.

Architecture Update

When I was running round the streets of London at lunchtime today, I realised I had been remiss in updating my avid readers (both of them), on the current situation with the architectural renaissance that is occurring in the City of London at the moment.

In the past I have written about the Pinnacle, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie or Pint, amongst others, which will shortly be joining the now famous Gherkin and the more recently completed Heron Tower, Bishopsgate Tower and the Shard which have significantly altered the London skyline over the last 10 years or so.

My pace run today took me past all of the above, whilst also taking me around and over some of the more traditional London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and even a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. When I am totally grumpy with having to commute to work, I simply have to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to run around so many historic sites everyday.

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My run was actually really good – the training with a backpack and on the hills, must be having a good impact since I am thankfully starting to find it easier to add a little pace into my runs. I actually managed to kick out a few kms at an average of 4:15 with which I was more than happy.

The buildings that are being worked on have been taking shape nicely.

The Cheesegrater or 122 Leadenhall has a distinctive wedge shaped design facing south to the Thames, and is right next to the Lloyds of London building. This building is unusual in its construction for the present in that most steel buildings have central concrete cores around which the steelwork is built, but the Cheesegrater is a ‘megaframe’ construction, and will be the largest of its kind in the world and it will also feature exterior glass lifts like those on the Lloyds building. The building is progressing well, and ‘topping out’ is expected shortly. The builder has also started the glass cladding on the lower floors.

The same level of success cannot be claimed for the Pinnacle, construction of which has now been stalled for nearly a year due to a lack of pre-letting arrangements. This problem seems to have been resolved recently and work will ‘potentially’ resume shortly. The distinctive spiral form of the Pinnacle will dominate the London skyline, upon its completion, as the tallest building in the City of London, and the second tallest in both The UK and the European Union, after the Shard.

In what seems to be the fickle world of commercial real estate ‘the Pint’, ‘Walkie-Talkie’ or 20 Fenchurch Street, is also progressing well. Topping out of the metal framework was completed in Dec 2012 and the glass cladding is now over half way up the 36 floor construction the novel design of which by the Uraguan architect, Rafael Viñoly is denoted by the top floors having more area than those lower down, although this is probably because the upper floors, with their better views over the Thames, will command a significantly higher lease rate.

The Shard, in Tooley Street south of the Thames close to London Bridge, was inaugurated on the 5 July 2012, but will open to the public shortly (Feb 2013) when the viewing gallery between the 68th and 72nd floors will afford spectacular views over London – sounds like one for the diary.

Pinnacle Update

It has been some time since I covered the situation with the current flurry of buildings being erected in London.

Pinnacle Update (Gherkin to the left, Cheesegrater to the right – hungry?)

There is good reason for that.

The bite of the recession has been hitting some of the construction projects hard.

Take The Pinnacle, for example. Destined to be the highest building within the confines of the City of London, work on this edifice stopped just after my last report in mid-January – call me a jinx? The actual reason has been quoted as insufficient pre-letting commitment to secure further investment from the project’s financiers. Quite what they are going to do with the 7 floors that are already there is anyone’s guess. It also makes you wonder what the cost of leasing the three massive cranes is costing the project as they remain dormant like giant sentries watching over the partially developed site.

The Pint

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Only last week the Shard was officially opened for business, although what is now Europe’s largest inhabitable building still has a few free floors with outstanding views over the Thames and the City of London, but the £££ million price tags for the penthouse suites is likely to put them out of reach of most mere mortals.

Of other developments going on at present, the construction of The Leadenhall Building, or ‘The Cheesegrater’ is continuing at a furious pace, ironically right next to the Pinnacle site – the yellow framework making up the back of the wedge shaped structure is resplendent from the end of Threadneedle Street. Perhaps a bit of ‘friendly’ rivalry has spurred them on, or perhaps more likely, the floor rents in the more modest building are more reasonable.

Just to the south of the Leadenhall and Pinnacle sites, on the north bank of the Thames, is another development at 20, Fenchurch Street, nicknamed ‘The Walkie-Talkie’ or ‘The Pint’ because of it’s bulbous top end. This ‘smaller’ building (it will be 36 floors in total) has progressed well, and all the concrete up to the top floor has been cast. The structure looks a little bizarre without it’s flesh of steelwork, but I’ve no doubt that will be progressing before too long.

Battersea Power Station

One of the most iconic buildings in south London has been put up for sale.

Battersea Power Station

Battersea power station was a coal fired power station, on the south bank of the Thames in London, which actually comprised two individual power stations; built in two stages in the form of a single building, Battersea A Power Station was built in the 1930s, with Battersea B Power Station to its east in the 1950s. The two stations were built to an identical design, providing the well known four-chimney layout. The station is actually the largest brick building in Europe and is notable for its original, lavish Art Deco interior fittings and decor, although the current state of the building has been described as ‘very bad’ by English Heritage, so it will be good to see some investment in saving the facade.

The site was decommissioned in 1983 and has been vacant ever since. However, planning permission for a £5bn development including homes, offices, a hotel, retail and leisure facilities was secured for the site from Wandsworth council last year.

The scheme will include a £200m contribution to extend the Northern line underground to the development and would also mean the creation of 25,000 jobs – 15,000 within the power station building – and the construction of 16,000 homes on the development.

Pink Floyd - Animals - 1977

Although many schemes have been proposed in the past, none have come to fruition and this is the first time the site has ever been put up for sale on the open market.

Knight Frank, the estate agents commissioned for the sale stated “Battersea Power Station is as iconic as the Chrysler Building in New York or the Eiffel Tower, and familiar to people who may have never even been to London.” While the Americans and French may disagree with the comparison, nobody can deny the building’s classic status as one of the few buildings left built in a time before concrete, glass and steel became the (necessary?) materials of choice for architects.

Perhaps the most iconic vision of all is from the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals album from the mid 1970’s and to my delight, whenever we pass the decaying husk of the station with the children, on the train into London, they always excitedly shout and point out the ‘flying pig building’.

A development to finally save this British art deco gem is good news.

Spoke too soon!

As I mentioned the other day in one of my posts, it is nice to see the changing landscape around the City as I walk to and from work everyday.

Under Construction

I had been wondering though, why the Pinnacle construction which I mentioned did not seem to be making a lot of progress (after all with so many floors of the backbone to construct as well as the rest of the ‘skin’, my current estimate for completion would be about 2020!)

However, all became clear today when I read that construction has been postponed for the second time as the agents are having trouble pre-letting the minimum amount of floor space (current estimates are at about 10%) in order to secure further finance. Quite what they are going to do with what is there if it doesn’t continue is anybody’s guess. Maybe I’ll investigate and do a future article on proposed use of defunct and derelict structures in London.

Yesterday I did a speed work session in the gym, only 5k but enough to get my legs moving – I must try that zero-G treadmill sometime soon – I’m sure that would help. Still, I was pleased with my time during the speed part of the workout 10 x 200m @ upwards of 4:00/km – it’s coming back slowly.

I followed up the yesterday’s session with an easy run outside today, where yet again I resurrected a familiar route. About 8km from work through Moorgate to the Bank of England then towards St Paul’s where I crossed the Thames over Millennium Bridge and then followed the South Bank before crossing back over the Thames at Waterloo Bridge and following the Embankment back to St Paul’s and back to the start. The sights I get to see are phenomenal really and I often have to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do this on a regular basis.

The trains were up the creek again tonight; some poor unfortunate soul had decided to end their life and in the process traumatise another driver by placing themselves in the path of several hundred tonnes of speeding locomotive (no contest really) and reek havoc on the branch of the network from Guildford to Petersfield, not to mention the thousands of commuters affected.

At The Pinnacle

One of the (many) advantages of coming to London every day is that one gets to see the skyline as it metamorphoses itself into a new form.

Slowly, and almost imperceptibly over the last few years the skyline has been changing after the easing of the height restrictions in 1938 (which nevertheless still tried to maintain historic views and hence became know as St Paul’s heights) new edifices have sprung up to replace the older crumbling buildings. Through necessity and an almost insatiable demand for office space within the Square mile of the City, architects have fallen over themselves to produce buildings to dominate the skyline into the 21st Century.

St Paul’s Cathedral, finished in 1710 after the old cathedral was burned down in the great fire of London (1666) remained the tallest building in London for over 250 years, until eclipsed by the BT Tower in 1962. This was followed shortly after by Centre Point in 1966 and then Tower 42 (Natwest Tower) in 1980. During the development of Canary Wharf, One Canada Square took over the mantle of the highest building in London and the UK in 1991.

Over the last few years, since opening in 2004, the now iconic Gherkin (30, St. Mary Axe) has heralded in a new era of building construction, some more conventional than others, but all fundamentally modern designs. These include Broadgate Tower (2008) and Heron Tower (2011) which is currently the tallest building in the City of London.

Currently under construction are 2 notable buildings including The Shard which at 310m (1017ft) will become the tallest building in the EU when opened this year, and The Pinnacle, which I pass every day on my walk from Bank to Liverpool Street along Threadneedle street, which in 2014 at 288m (945ft) will become the highest in the City of London.

So that was my walk to work today! It is quite interesting to see how they push up the floors on the Pinnacle; I haven’t worked out how long each floor of the concrete ‘spine’ is taking them at the moment, but it is not more than a couple of weeks each. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this over the next few months.