London, England is one of the legendary capital cities of the world. Rich in history, the city is a global center of finance and high technology. Its skyline includes some of the most innovative skyscraper designs of any city in the world. The architecture scene in London is controversial, though, with the unusual shapes of some of its towers inviting criticism and derision from some, and accolades from others. This article discusses seven of the tallest buildings in London, so you can reach your own conclusions.
What is Considered a Skyscraper?
The First Skyscrapers
Before the skyscraper, buildings were constructed of masonry and could not be built very tall due to the stress of the weight. In ancient Rome, apartments reached four to five stories tall but regularly collapsed as they aged. Engineers constructed the first skyscrapers in the 1880s, made possible by the development of steel structural beams and girders that could support the weight of much taller buildings, as well as elevators to transport people from floor to floor. Chicago and New York were early centers of these new technologies. The first real skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, built in 1885 to a height of 10 stories (138 feet).
In the 21st century, advances in materials and engineering have sent the spires of the world’s cities truly soaring into the sky. Today the term “skyscraper” refers to buildings of over 40 floors, taller than 150 m (492 ft.). Many buildings far exceed this level, though. For example, the tallest building in the world is Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It stands at 829.8 m (2,722 ft.) tall but may soon be surpassed by new construction projects in Saudi Arabia. Buildings that high can pierce the cloud cover, so if it’s raining outside your office window, you can always take the elevator up to a higher story for a sunny lunch break!
How Many Skyscrapers Does London Have?
London has about 33 skyscrapers with more under construction. To be honest, that’s not many for a city of this size and prestige. Land prices and building regulations in the United Kingdom and other European countries make it difficult to construct large buildings there. Most of the world’s tallest buildings are in China and other densely populated, prosperous Asian countries. Hong Kong has 552, the most of any city in the world. New York comes in third at 316. With a tenth as many as New York, London lands way down at the 50th spot on the list of cities with the most skyscrapers. More are planned for the coming years, though, so London might gradually work its way up the list.
1. The Shard
This is the tallest building in London, advertised as “a vertical city where people can work, live, and relax.” It is 87 floors tall (310 m / 1017 ft.) Construction was completed in 2012. It’s a mixed-use development near London Bridge, with office, commercial, and retail space. It also has a public viewing gallery that unquestionably has the best views of the city.
2. 22 Bishopsgate
22 Bishopsgate is an office complex with 62 floors including retail space, restaurants, and a viewing gallery. It is 278 m (912) feet high. Don’t be confused when you read that it is the tallest building in the “City of London,” even though it is shorter than The Shard. The City of London or simply “The City” is the name of the historic central district of London. There are some historic traditions associated with this area that are still expressed in ceremonial functions today. It is one of the main financial centers of London, along with Canary Wharf.
3. One Canada Square
One Canada Square was the tallest building in London for 21 years after its initial construction in 1991. It has 50 floors and is 235 m (771 ft.) tall. The clean, sleek exterior of the building is clad in stainless steel. The pyramid roof is a unique feature, along with a flashing aircraft warning light which is atypical for office towers in the U.K. It’s predominantly an office building with some retail space on the ground floor, and there is no observation deck for the public. Along with many other skyscrapers, it is located in Canary Wharf, one of the city’s premier financial districts.
4. Landmark Pinnacle
Landmark Pinnacle is the tallest residential building in London, standing 233 m (764 ft.) high and having 75 floors. It is located at Canary Wharf. Some of the amenities it offers residents include the highest gym in the country, a tropical garden with 3,500 plants, dining rooms, and two private rooftop terraces with expansive views of the city. There are also private media rooms and a cinema on the first floor.
5. Heron Tower
Heron Tower in the City of London was completed in 2011 at a cost of £242 million. It has 46 floors of office space and is 230 m (754 ft.) high. It also has a 28 m (92 ft.) mast that puts it into the top 10 of the city’s skyscrapers. The construction of the building was not without controversy. Historic preservationists thought it was too close to St. Paul’s Cathedral as viewed from Waterloo Bridge. There was also a dispute over the name between Heron International (the building’s owner) and Salesforce.com, a major tenant. The building initially struggled to get tenants due to the effects of the Great Recession. Today it has achieved full occupancy, however.
6. 122 Leadenhall Street
The residents of London have dubbed 122 Leadenhall Street “The Cheesegrater” due to its wedge-like shape. The 46 floors of this office block place it at 225 m high (738 ft.). This development has been more successful than rival office towers in attracting tenants, including the insurance group Aon which leased the first 10 floors and moved its global headquarters there from Chicago.
The Newfoundland or Newfoundland Quay Tower is a residential skyscraper completed in 2019. Another popular name for it is the Diamond Tower because of the cross-hatched pattern of its structural supports. Its 60 floors rise to a height of 200 m (722 ft.). The Newfoundland is located on the Isle of Dogs in Canary Wharf. So, are dogs welcome? Yes, bring your furbaby to “M Canary Wharf” bar and restaurant on the first floor, where they even prepare special sample meals for doggos.
New Planned or Proposed London Towers
Some of the new towers planned or proposed, if completed, will rival the tallest buildings in London. Check out the chart below and start planning your trip to one of the greatest cities in the world!
|100 Leadenhall St.
|Aspen at Consort Place
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bucchi Francesco/Shutterstock.com
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