Former City of London planning officer Peter Rees on the launch of The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Environment in London: “We can’t have more piles of safe deposit boxes”

Emma Haslett
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The City of London's recent crop of skyscrapers places more of a focus on office space (Source: Getty)
The number of skyscrapers in London has increased noticeably over recent years - and it turns out that hasn’t gone unobserved by the international community of tall building enthusiasts.
Last night, the Chicago-based Council for Tall Buildings and the Urban Habitat (CTBUH) - whose chief claim to fame is as the official arbiter of the world’s tallest buildings - launched a chapter in London, with former City planning officer Peter Rees on its executive committee.
Rees, who spent 29 years as the City of London’s planning officer and played an active part in the creations of both Canary Wharf and the current cluster of towers going up around the City, told City A.M. the organisation was arriving in London at the perfect time.
“London at the moment has no shortage of proposals for tall buildings, but unfortunately most of them are with creating maximum profit from the site, and very little to do with what London needs,” he said.
“They are the things I’ve nicknamed the ‘piles of safe deposit boxes’ - a very different type of product than what we’re used to. Putting up a number of very expensive apartments to be bought by rich people to stash their cash doesn’t do anything for London.”
He said the focus should not just be on the tall buildings side - but on how they fit into the urban environment.
“High rise buildings should be primarily for office use, because you can create high-density employment; for hotels, because guests enjoy a nice view; and for leisure space, that way something can be given back to the public. They shouldn’t just be a private entity for a select few.”
CTBUH, which also has regional chapters in Canada, the USA, China and Japan, said London had “much to offer” when considering the integration of tall buildings into a historic environment.
“The UK may be the ‘short cousin’, but that doesn’t mean it has any less of a story to tell.”

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