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The sky’s the limit

Two exciting new developments provide high hopes as debate over the future of London’s skyline rages. The key to their success, and arguably the lasting success of any great building, is emphasis on the highest standards of design, and they can provide lessons for many would-be tower builders.

In case you missed it: a report published by New London Architecture earlier this year announced that over 230 new towers of 20 storeys or more are planned for the capital. Since this became news, many people have, quite rightly, questioned the apparent lack of a strategic vision or overview. 
It’s clear that the shape of the capital will be 
radically transformed.

But, while all of us can think of blocks that give towers a bad name, we can also name uplifting landmarks that show what can be achieved, from the energetic brutalism of Trellick Tower and the Barbican Estate (OK, I love these, but I realise not everyone feels as passionately about post-war concrete) to the highly engineered sculptural form of the Gherkin.

At the recent sales launch of the latest luxury high-rise apartments, art historian and TV presenter Professor Dan Cruickshank gave a talk on ‘Building high in London’, which encompassed such diverse bedfellows as Boris Johnson, 1st-century BC 
Roman architect Vitruvius and Victorian art critic 
and philanthropist John Ruskin. He argued eloquently for well-designed, high-quality developments in the right location.

Step forward Canaletto, a 31-storey mixed-use development complete with restaurant, cinema and 190 apartments on City Road, designed by Ben van Berkel of UNStudio. Over half the apartments have already been snapped up, and the latest phase released for sale is the Beaumont Collection, three-bedroom apartments located on the 24th-28th floors, priced from £2.9 million.

The tower itself has a unique curving façade of aluminium and glass, and was inspired by van Berkel’s international experience in such skyscraper-tastic locations as New York, Shanghai and Singapore. Amenities for residents include a 
24th-floor social hub and swimming pool.

Across the Thames, a 7,080 sq ft duplex penthouse has been released for sale at NEO Bankside. Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the development is set back from the Thames behind Tate Modern. The five separate buildings, which wear their heart – or at least their structural bracing – on their sleeve, range in scale from six to 24 storeys.

The penthouse, which has been developed by Native Land and Grosvenor, has triple-aspect views across the river, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, two underground parking spaces and storage facilities. NEO Bankside also features a residents’ gym, business centre, wine cellar and 24-hour concierge.

The debate about the development of London, and how we are to house an ever-growing population in a space that stubbornly refuses to get any more spacious, will continue for years. But the inspiration of high-quality buildings, created by some of the world’s best architects, enhances the urban fabric and gives us lofty ambitions for the future.

Check out the full feature on page 26 of MoveTo London