View – Renzo Piano plans building

View – Renzo Piano plans building – Brief Article



Southwark Council has given detailed planning approval for Renzo Piano’s London Bridge Tower, which promises to be (for the moment) the tallest building in Europe (305m, 1000ft) high — more than 60m higher than London’s present tallest, Canary Wharf by Cesar Pelli (244m). The tower will be mostly occupied by offices over a retail base. Above the offices will be a 15-storey hotel, a health club and 14 flats. At the top is a 50m high radiant heat exchanger to cope with cooling loads.

Piano has chosen the etiolated pyramid shape and the white glass cladding because he thinks that they will minimize the impact of the building against the cityscape and the sky. Piano says that ‘The challenge is to create a gentle presence. The glass is angled to be less obtrusive and to reflect the sky for a white look rather than the menacing dark of many tall buildings. If you’re building an iconic building, it must be bloody good’. Certainly Southwark is looking forward to a landmark. Stephanie Elsy, Leader of the Borough Council, said that the ‘plans are of world class quality and will positively contribute to London’s World City image and the London skyline. We are honoured that Renzo Piano has chosen Southwark for this exciting scheme’.

But there is still much disagreement. English Heritage (EH), the national watchdog of the past, is adamantly opposed to the proposal, believing that it will mar traditional views of St Paul’s Cathedral and be visible within the curtain wall of the Tower of London. Perhaps the Government will call in the design for further consideration because the project is so important. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), the taste watchdog, supports the proposal in principle, though it has reservations about the way in which it will affect the city at ground level. Paul Finch, Deputy Chairman of CABE, says that planning permission should be accompanied by stringent conditions to ‘prevent the dumbing down of the design’; for instance, there should be absolute insistence on the kind of glass proposed by Piano. EH, says Finch, is solely concerned with picturesque overview, whereas CABE looks at the way in which a tall building relates to the street and urban life, the way its top greets the sky, and its physical impact using wind and shadow studies. It believes that the building will ‘inevitably assume iconic status’.

Finch hopes that, if the design is called in, the Secretary of State will seize the opportunity to look at a policy for all tall buildings in the capital — a desperately needed move. London Mayor Ken Livingstone says that it will deliver architecture of world-class quality, which will positively contribute to London’s world-city image and the London skyline’.

Livingstone is keen to encourage tall buildings almost anywhere in a most ill judged attempt to make the city seem up-to-date — London may have influenced Dallas and Houston but the mother of the modern city must remember its European origins and resist Texification by generating a proper, compact, high rise CBD like those of Sydney or Manhattan to the east of St Paul’s. P. D.


The subject of the sixth international student competition to be held by the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA) is a dwelling for a famous writer. Entrants must be studying architecture in any Commonwealth country at the time of submission. Site (and indeed writer) can be chosen by individual entrants. Among jury criteria will be response to local culture, site and resources, appropriate materiality and sustainability.

Prizes will be [pounds sterling]1200 (first), [pounds sterling]500 (second) and [pounds sterling]200 (third) with a bonus of [pounds sterling]200 for the best multi-disciplinary group prizewinner. There is a further [pounds sterling]200 for the best scheme entered by students in first or second years. The winners and a selection of other schemes will be published in the AR, which is supporting the competition.

The international jury (which will include CAA president Philip Kungu of Kenya and Peter Davey, the Editor of the AR) will meet in early 2003 and prizes will be announced at the CAA General Assembly on 18 April in Namibia.

Further details will be published shortly in the AR, and on our website In the meantime, individuals and schools can obtain registration forms from:

Sue Linning, CEO

South African Institute of Architects

Private Bag X 10063

Randburg, 2125


South Africa


Spectrum 2002, the annual furniture fair, will be taking place 14-17 May in the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street, London. As in previous years, the AR will give an Award for Excellence to the product new to Spectrum and judged the most worthy by an eminent panel of judges (at the time of writing, Penny McGuire, AR senior editor and chairwoman, Lorenzo Apicella of Pentagram, Sally Mackereth of Wells Mackereth). This year Spectrum will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in what is now its new home, the Commonwealth Galleries in Kensington. This year, as last year, there are 15 new companies exhibiting alongside firms such as Vitra, Thonet, Herman Miller, Wittmann, Forza, Kvadrat, Fantoni and Wilkhahn, displaying work by internationally known designers including Simon Pengelly, Jorge Pensi, Peter Christian and Michael Sodeau. Material Connexion, the American library for new materials and processes, will once again be present after its success last year. It will be showing 128 new materials and 1 0 new three-dimensional product samples.

The exhibition will be open from Tuesday 14 to Thursday 16 May, 11am-9pm, and on Friday 17 May, 1lam-5pm. Pre-registration can be arranged from now onwards. Tel: 0870 429 4420: or

For negotiated rates on hotels telephone First Option: 0870 870 9145 (quoting Spectrum). Press contact: Danielle Benson, 27 Southover, London N12 7JG Tel: +44 (0)208 446 9580. Fax: +44(0)208 343 7677.

COPYRIGHT 2002 EMAP Architecture

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group