Written by Cameron Meads.

Image credit: NLA

In the last decade London has been home to the development of 270 tall buildings. According to the @NLA’s latest Tall Building’s report, this number is expected to grow significantly, with nearly 600 skyscrapers (20 storeys or above) in London’s future pipeline.

While we often visually see London’s skyline as one single thing, that is by no means the case in reality. In fact, ‘London’s skyline’ is situated across many different boroughs with many different priorities, which means approaches to delivering tall buildings need to consider many different local priorities and nuances.

Tall buildings in the City and across London

While historically much focus has been placed on the height of tall buildings and the upper floors, most people tend to experience tall buildings every day on the ground or lower levels, especially office workers and daily commuters.

In the City of London we’re starting to emphasise more and more, with architects and developers, proposing new tall buildings that provide better interactions between the ground floor and public realm. This includes:

  • Public realm at ground floor level, including retail, food and beverage offers
  • Better connectivity and wayfinding routes
  • Opening up access to historic areas or sites of significance.

This is increasingly prevalent in the City Cluster, which is an area specifically designated for tall buildings in the City of London. Through proposed developments like 99 Bishopsgate, where over 80% of the ground floor is publicly accessible and a new six-storey bespoke cultural offer building, it’s clear that the City of London are shifting away from just wanting to attract tourists to the City, but also attracting Londoners seven days per week.

This also means using new development to improve connections to surrounding areas and open up some of the best of what London has to offer, including access to heritage sites and historic areas. We’ve seen this connection between the new and the old through the likes of 85 Gracechurch Street, with the creation of a public walkway providing increased access to the 700-year old Leadenhall market, one of London’s oldest markets, increasing footfall and spend in the area. Other developments like 50 Fenchurch will also provide access to one of London’s most historic artefacts, with the All Hallows Staining Tower.

Of course, the physical design of tall buildings play an increased role in the City too – with the need for designs to respect London’s historic and contemporary urban context, including respecting protected views, such as St Paul’s Cathedral. Which is why many buildings in the city are designed with physical slanting or graduated stepping.

As you step outside of the city, whether it’s in outer London boroughs or a short walk into Hackney, Islington or across the river, there are other nuances and different audiences to consider, such as larger residential populations with a specific set of requirements. This often means emphasising other positive aspects of proposed schemes, such as increased transport connections, new retail offers that fill existing gaps, or additional affordable homes. But given these communities range significantly from borough to borough, a ‘one size fits one’ approach is always needed to ensure proposals are communicated and understood in the intended way.

Sustainability a key feature across all boroughs

Across all local authority areas, sustainability continues to be of upmost importance with tall buildings. They all have ambitious climate goals, and development is often at the heart of those.

We’re seeing this take hold with some councils adopting a strong ‘retrofit first policy’, such as Westminster, and holding high sustainability standards when assessing new planning applications.

With public consultation and planning applications for tall buildings, it’s therefore crucial to articulate the sustainability credentials or benefits to a new or retrofitted building. Whether it be retention of mass or embodied carbon in existing buildings, net zero operating profile or flexible floorplates, it is important to explore this in a comprehensible and transparent way.

We’ve helped express this on schemes we’ve worked on through:

  • Retention of mass or embodied carbon in an existing building
  • Net zero operating profile
  • Flexible floorplates that can cater to different tenants

These can often be quite complicated messages to communicate in an easily understandable and digestible way. In projects we’ve worked on, we’ve used a mix of visual representations, educational pieces, and lifted up detailed credentials into high level values and principles to clearly articulate the sustainability benefits of schemes. This ensures that sustainability is front and centre of public engagement and is easily understood by all audiences.

What this means going forward

The design and public engagement on tall buildings will need to continue to reflect the local context, to provide interesting benefits to existing areas, whilst addressing gaps such as sustainability credits.

Kanda are experts in delivering bespoke consultations and engagements for tall buildings across London.

If you would like to know how we can support your tall building development proposal contact us here: info@kandaconsulting.co.uk


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