Blots on the Cityscape – The Ruin of London?

There has been an astonishing lack of serious debate about the future planning of London except in one or two of the architecture journals and the Guardian. Over 400 very tall buildings are planned for the city, particularly along the south bank of the Thames. Judging by what has been built so far, and visuals of what are planned, these will mostly be a motley collection of mediocre and gimmicky buildings which will have a profound effect on London’s skyline and at ground level, blocking views and casting long shadows. The majority of these blocks will be crammed full of apartments sold off-plan to foreign buyers for ‘investment’ which will mean many of them will be dark at night, like the Richard Rogers’ buildings on Hyde Park last time I went past them. Only a token few will be ‘affordable homes’ for Londoners – a recent ad for one luxury block promised Hong Kong buyers that there would be no social housing in it.

The former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, proclaimed that “new tall buildings are gracing London’s iconic skyline, demonstrating our city’s ability to design and construct world-class architecture” and “sensitively managed, well-designed and in the right place, tall buildings will continue to help this city address its greatest challenge.” (Newsweek)

Presumably these include the execrable ‘Fryscraper’ (20 Fenchurch Street) by Rafael Viñoly, winner of the 2015 Carbuncle Cup, which blights the views from the Thames in both directions, has melted cars, blows people over, and looms over the Tower of London. This dreadful building was also supported by the former City Planner Peter Rees, milords Foster and Rogers and other ‘distinguished’ architects who have all been rather quiet about the finished result, as has Boris Johnson!



Because of their effect on views of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey UNESCO has warned that several proposals for tall buildings on the south bank of the Thames have led it to consider placing Westminster on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. This decision has not yet been taken because of lobbying from the UK, but what a shocking indictment of the lack of any strategic planning in London!


Alain de Botton has produced an excellent short film to warn of the danger that this greedy mania for tall buildings poses for London. He accuses the developers and architect of the ‘Fryscraper’ of committing crimes against Beauty and wonders why they aren’t in prison – strong stuff!


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