Tall buildings and Shard London

Wikimedia Image Creative Commons 3.0 License from 'KrakenHammer'
Wikimedia Image Creative Commons 3.0 License from 'KrakenHammer'

So I was recently thinking about the large number of tall buildings going up in London in the near future, or may be being shelved as a result of the recession, and I had a good look at some of the publicity for the Shard London.

Have a look at this very shiny movie. How bloody huge is that thing going to be! When it’s completed it’s going to be not only the tallest building in London, but the tallest in Britain!

I had a quick peek at t recent article in the Standard about these buildings. Of course, you would be forgiven from the tone of the article into thinking that the middle-class, notably pretentious, grasping and generally elitist paper was objecting for the sake of it, or perhaps because it’s readership’s beautiful neo-Georgian Kensington terraces might drop below 1m a piece in response.

However ugly the tone, they do have a point. What most people don’t realise (until it’s too late) is that these tall structures cast very long shadows. That means that there are streets nearby which will almost never see direct sunlight again.

In addition, these glass buildings (as well as being inefficient at preserving heat or keeping buildings cool and therefore contributing to fuel consumption, carbon footprint blah blah blah) reflect a lot of light. As a result, unlucky neighbouring buildings will face regular and shifting glare.

In the case of buildings like the Shard, where the majority of surrounding buildings are offices, this might not seem like such a problem (though working in an office that never gets direct sunlight I tend to disagree). However, many of the developments going up further to the west are designed as apartments within residential areas, which means that people will be living under the shadows or within the glare.

I’m actually not against tall glass buildings – I’m rather fond of them in fact, and think they are often beautiful (unlike many of my ‘Heritage Lobby’ colleagues). However in a time when local boroughs are knocking down their tower-blocks because they don’t work socially and even the most vaunted are now considered to be ugly, why should we be allowing private developers to build more? Do we really want the middle-class and upwards living in private towers? What if the recession continues and developers are unable to find occupants for these towers? It’s worth considering the ugly monstrosity of Centre Point, which I believe is still relatively unoccupied, and Canary Wharf, which was also largely unoccupied for much of its life. Is this what we really want for our capital?

If you’re interested, check out the Wikipedia page for the Shard, or download the publicity brochure .

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