An article in The Guardian highlights what a lot of Londoners have been feeling about their city lately – that when good buildings are constructed they’re taken to the residents’ hearts, and when bad ones appear they’re reviled. The Gherkin, which replaced the ugly, bombed-out Baltic Exchange, turned out to be a beautiful addition to the city that was instantly accepted as part of the skyline. There’s something almost modest about its graceful twisting shape, and the way it slots into its surroundings.
The embarrassing Strata tower, shaped like the kind of electric shaver you might find in the Candy brothers’ bathroom, with its eco-turbines that never get turned on because apparently they’re too noisy, wrecked the view from Charing Cross Road, but then came the big blank Shard – built beyond all proportion to its surroundings, still empty.At least that is supposed to look like something – a church spire, according to its architect. But now a slew of really lousy-looking new skyscrapers have been approved. There had been an idea that tall buildings should be in a cluster, forming a teardrop shape that would reach its peak near the Bank of England. But that quickly went out of the window.
The 180-metre Vauxhall Tower sits in the middle of a view from Westminster Bridge, officially deemed to require special care. And, as the Guardian puts it, the Strata wrecks another view – ‘the Houses of Parliament seen from the Serpentine Bridge in Hyde Park, its gothic spires framed by trees and water. Here, Strata waddles into the background from stage left, like SpongeBob SquarePants in a production of Hamlet.’
New York appears more cohesive because much of it was built in the same era – but London is not New York. I was upset when the view from the green in the Tower of London was shattered by the NatWest Tower – it had survived unchanged for centuries because the Tower sits so low in the ground – but who can argue for a mere view when there’s big money at stake?