Skylines & Icons
This morning I came across these really quite impressive visualisations of what London’s The Shard will look when finished from different areas of the city. They really illustrate quite well the ‘icon’ status it will have, how much it will feature on the skyline, taking over from the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe by Norman Foster) as arguably the most iconic tall building in London.
London Bridge is already an icon in people’s minds. There has been a bridge in this location for at least 2000 years, remaining the only crossing over the Thames until well into the 18th Century. It is intrinsically linked to the history of London as a place for trade and commerce.
Nevertheless, these days London Bridge is a rather unassuming place. The bridge itself is a functional concrete structure; and it is the area to the south of the bridge, clustered around London Bridge Station what is known as ‘London Bridge’. The station itself was never of particular interest or quality, and the areas around it are organised around the needs of motorised traffic, not least because of the bus routes serving the station. Not even the presence of the Borough Market with its ever increasing popularity and the Southwark Cathedral nearby make enough of a difference as the area remains, in my view, to be of generally poor quality in terms of townscape design and accessibility.
In that context it seems very fitting to have what is in reality a regeneration scheme for London Bridge. The development encompasses not only The Shard, but is in fact presented by the development as the London Bridge Quarter, made of a series of spaces around a revamped station including London Bridge Place, a 17-floor office building, a public piazza and a shopping precinct. The Shard itself will accommodate offices, a hotel, apartments and other public functions such as viewing galleries. The development has the potential to transform the London Bridge Area for the better, especially if they achieve creating a place which captures and contributes to the character of the area and not just another corporate environment.
But it will be ultimately the tall building that will have an impact on a much wider area. The Shard has memorable shape and will be visible from pretty much everywhere in the capital. Does London need another icon? I wouldn’t think that is necessarily the case, but I am sure city will pride itself of having the tallest building in Europe. I expect the development will have a positive effect in its surrounding area, I expect the buildings to be of good quality, and I expect the Shard to appear on postcards and souvenirs. What I hope is that Lord Foster won’t feel the need to design an even taller building just to keep up.