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London Bridge Tower is going up – all 1,016 feet of it

I feel about skyscrapers the way lots of other libertarians feel about space travel. I may have all kinds of doubts about the purity of the capitalism that gives rise to them, but… wow! And I want now to mention here a particularly impressive one, soon to be built in London.

I’m talking about London Bridge Tower.

London Bridge Tower

I have already commented on this tower as a mere plan on my Culture Blog, here, and before that here. But what I later missed was that last November, the building received planning permission and is now definitely going to be built.

My first reaction to the first faked photos I saw of this immense spike was that it looked like a paper dart that had already been thrown a few times and had had its spike somewhat damaged. Now, I find myself looking forward to its construction immensely. Expect photos here of it as it takes shape in the years to come. Building starts in 2005 and will be complete, or such is the plan, in 2009.

It is to be built in one of my favourite London places, namely on the south bank of the River Thames, which just gets better and better with every year that passes. Recently they have added the Wheel, and the undeniably impressive if decidedly fascist looking Bankside Power Station has metamorphosed into Tate Modern, the interior of which is very fine even if it does not seem to contain much else that is much good most of the time. Eventually they may even sort out that nothing space next to the Wheel. You can already walk all the way along the river on the southerly side through the centre of London, and this tower will only add to the fun.

The reason why London Bridge Tower will be such a draw is that we will not just be able to walk past it and gawp up at it; we will also be allowed to ascend within it and gaze out upon London, from a viewing gallery half way up, and from another public spot near the top. What this will cost I do not know, but I will be doing one of those trips at least once, I can tell you. Quite how all this public participation was contrived, I don not know, and no doubt some of the politics involved was of the sort we here might not approve of, but personally I am delighted about all this.

This tower is the work of Renzo Piano, who co-designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Of this massive object he has this to say:

I don’t believe it is possible to build a tall building in London by extruding the same shape from bottom to top. It would be too small at the bottom and too big at the top.

Likewise, symbols are dangerous. Often tall buildings are aggressive and arrogant symbols of power and ego, selfish and hermetic. The tower is designed to be a sharp and light presence in the London skyline. Architecture is about telling stories and expressing visions, and memory is part of it.

Our memory is permeated by history.

How nuanced. How European. He even manages to turn the tallest building in Europe into an anti-American statement. Well, if that is what it takes to get a thing like this built, then well said Renzo, I say.

And even if you disapprove, it can not possibly end up being as big an embarrassment as this. Although I find that I like the look of that also, more and more, however totally useless it may be. It is the Space Shuttle of skyscrapers, you might say. Concorde pointing upwards.

23 comments to London Bridge Tower is going up – all 1,016 feet of it

  • Sandy P.

    –Often tall buildings are aggressive and arrogant symbols of power and ego, selfish and hermetic. —

    This one’s pointy on top, ode to the pointy-headed brusselsprouts?

    But I do like the look of it.

    Maybe he’s miffed he didn’t get to do the WTC.

  • Ugh. One of London’s charms is that it doesn’t have (many) skyscrapers. Now it runs the risk of looking like any other modern metropolis, if this trend continues.

  • cthulhu

    Ummm. Looked at the Transamerica pyramid in San Francisco lately? This doesn’t look outstandingly original or like an “anti-American statement” to me — more like a “wannabe American clone.”

  • Rob

    I’m with Brian. There’s something about large shiny new buildings that gets my juices flowing. I’ll soon be moving to London and I’m looking forward to seeing this go up. It looks like there will be numerous public spaces to explore, especially the viewing gallery, which adds to the fun.

  • Jacob

    The building of the Empire State Building took 15 months (1932-1933). This one starts in 2005, and is planned to be finished in 2009. (Will actually be completed sometime about 2012-2015). The consolation is that mankind has not yet forgot how to build high buildings.

  • A_t

    Anti-American? Saying squared-off buildings are ugly… wow!

    Next maybe saying one doesn’t like peanut butter will be viewed as proof of an entrenched euro-superiority complex. There’s plenty real anti-americanism out there; no need to go fabricating it where there is none.

    Excited about the building tho’.. bring it on! And good point Jacob; any idea why it takes us so much longer now?

  • “is now definitely going to be built.”

    That’s a definite “maybe”. The route from CAD to building is never smooth, even with planning permission…


  • Rob

    Jacob wrote: “This one starts in 2005, and is planned to be finished in 2009”.

    Yes, they have to factor in maximum working hours and compulsory tea breaks these days. No such trouble on the Empire State Building.

  • Dean

    I’m not sure that London’s charm will necessary be eroded if an assortment of next generation skyscrapers is to grace it’s rather undistinguished central skyline (I mean, Big Ben never really cut the mustard as an awe-inspiring beast and looks rather puny to the modern eye). The real culprit here is the relentless mediocrity of much of its central building stock (thanks to the Luftwaffe and misguided post-war planners) – not least, the runt which it is replacing!
    This one has the potential to become a kind of ‘Eiffel Tower of London’ (don’t forget there was much controversy when THAT was built yet I doubt that few Parisians would sacrifice it now). So long as scale AND quality are emphasised I think that several (appropriately situated) megastructures such as LBT befit a vibrant metropolis which regards itself as being, along with New York, the best on the planet

  • david fitzpatrick

    I live close to the site of the Tower and cannot wait for the work to start.The view from my kitchen window will never be the same again!!

    The reason it is going to take such a long time to construct is because they have to firstly demolish the hideous high rise office block that already exists on the site.Plus the fact that it is going to be built above one of Londons’ busiest railway stations.

    A wonderful building…..

  • al

    i have been looking for this site could somone tell me what hideous block is being demolished love the building

  • myk

    The South Bank seems a funny place for Europe’s new tallest building. Yes, its great that the areas being rejuvinated and especially with another structure thats so iconic, but it may be a little out of proportion when built. I don’t object to the building of tall buildings in London (as long as they’re built in the right area of the city, ie not the West end) but one of its scale would seem more suited to the City or Canary Wharf?

  • Alex

    I agree with myk. I think that a cluster of well designed (like the Gherking, not the Natwest tower), modern skyscrapers would really add a lot to modernizing london. But having them in random scattered locations doesn’t look half as appealing as having a powerful skyscraper district (like Manhattan, but with nicer buildings) as there should be in the City if the Corporation weren’t so concerned with preserving English heritage. Don’t they realise that these skyscrapers become English heritage? I love LBT but i prefer the old design where the peak was pyrimidal rather than jagged.

  • doug

    hey rite i think this building is f***ing amazing but i think it shoud be built near the gerkin an tower 42 as the center now that would look amasing but becouse they built it on the south bank that means that other skysrapers big as that will have to be buit to even it out ,but if it does get built there i would still be very happy as this will be a sign that england is still here were still go power! so i think this tower will chage london forever i wudnt mind if south bank turned into a futurerist new york

  • the hideous building to be demolished is southwark towers, currently occupied by PWC.

  • Ben Wyman

    The London Bridge Tower, though very beautiful and impressive will never be built, its too expensive and like most phantom buildings that never even get under way there are to many obstacles in its path.

  • Spectral

    It’s amusing when I first read this – first faked photos – these aren’t faked. They are photogrammetry of a CAD model onto the actual site so that ppl like us can actually see what another carbuncle on the face of humanity.
    Faked photos! It takes a shed load of skill to put a model together and any attempt at denegrating it and the people who worked bloody hard on it is in fact insulting yourself

  • vince

    i think we are well behind other countries when it comes to futuristic skyscrapers.
    look at the so called skyscrapers in canary wharf,they just look like 1970s oblongs stood on their side.
    look at frankfurt and see what skyscrapers should look like in the 21st century.
    glad the london bridge tower is being built and in the right direction.
    canary wharf take note?


  • vince

    sorry i am tired.
    in my quote above i mean,,oblongs on their ends and not sides.

  • Being a proud Londoner from the east end, I think london needs to have more stylish skyscrapers to boost the image of this great city. We need to stop London dominating the countryside. the only way to divert this catostrophy is to create more space on the existing resourses. I think riching for the skys is the answer.

  • john

    The Building looks stunning and i can’t wait to visit.
    After what happened in new york its good to see that we can show the tw**s that where not worried by there views.
    Also does anyone know if bishopsgate has been given the go ahead.

  • kyle harrison

    London needs skyscrapers wether you like it or not, London is the capital of finance and that is a fact, we need to show off how good we are,we are the 4th richest country in the world are capital is the capital of finance we have one of the best military in the world. It’s time we start to show off and make are cities look great.

  • kyle harrison

    London needs skyscrapers wether you like it or not, London is the capital of finance and that is a fact, we need to show off how good we are,we are the 4th richest country in the world are capital is the capital of finance we have one of the best military in the world. It’s time we start to show off and make are cities look great.