Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Before-and-after images show how the city will change if every planned tower gets built.
A grand total of 436 new skyscrapers could be heading for London soon. Of this tally, 114 are at the pre-planning stage, 233 have received approval prior to construction, and 89 are actually being built. Now, thanks to a new set of extremely detailed renderings, we have an idea what this high-rise future for London may actually look like.
This is what you currently see when look eastwards from the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral:
And here is the same view eastwards after all currently approved construction has taken place:
The predictive renderings reveal a spikier London where high towers should be visible from almost every corner of the city center. So scattered are London’s tallest buildings, in fact, that the renderings don’t even show them all clearly. One major cluster is located further east, in the redeveloped docklands of Canary Wharf. If you go look for the tower on the furthest right of the picture—the notorious Walkie-Talkie, aka London’s Worst Building—you can spot it rising in the far distance.
Despite this liberal scattering of towers, the predictive renderings nonetheless show a London skyline starting to take a little more shape. In the near future, London’s center looks set to develop two relatively contained concentrations of towers: one in the City of London, and the other south of the river along Blackfriars Road. The recent decision to cancel plans for a tall, Renzo Piano-designed tower much farther west in Paddington suggests that it may get tougher to secure planning permission for skyscrapers outside this zone.
But will this new high-rise London really come about? There’s a clear imbalance between the number of towers still in the planning pipeline and the number actually under construction, suggesting the possibility that not all developers will necessarily act on the plans they have submitted. Towers that have provisional approval can face legal challenges further down the line.
This is already happening to 22 Bishopsgate, the tallest tower visible in this post’s second picture, which may face legal challenges blocking its construction. The 295-meter (968-foot) high tower may be halted by neighbors using “right-to-light” rules to ensure their properties are not too overshadowed. In an amusing twist, it seems that among the chief objectors are, in fact, other skyscrapers, as the area’s other sunlight-hoggers get a taste of their own medicine.
But while the exact number and location of London’s future skyscrapers may not yet have been carved in stone, the ongoing transformation of the city’s skyline is all but guaranteed. London’s future will clearly be higher and more instantly eye-catching. Will it be better? We shall have to wait and see.