The City of London has lost the intimacy of its streets and lanes. Planners have traded it away for the blank facades of huge monoliths crashing into the pavement, apparently mitigated by wind-blown plazas. Towers and offices with large floor plates are seen as an essential for the City as a global trading centre. But it is not these, but the architecture of the modern monolith, that has made the street a hostile place. As architects concentrate on designing huge facades, they falsely believe that it is essential to carry their structural expression to the street. The City could learn from the pioneering tall buildings of New York and Chicago, where the street was given its own intimate building, and the towers are plain, with landmark silhouettes. Planners and architects need to learn from history and restore the human scale to the streets.
Professor Robert Adam is director of ADAM Architecture.
The Olympic Games has created an opportunity for the City of London to regain its confidence as a relevant global city. Despite early pessimism, the City can revel in its accomplishments and, as we look towards the legacy of the Games, it can now become a truly sustainable commercial centre. To achieve this, the classical building typology must be refreshed. We need new tall buildings, particularly to the east of the City. By building higher, we can provide offices that are fit for purpose and with increased natural light, therefore producing lower carbon emissions. More importantly, tall buildings can provide larger public spaces at ground floor level to delight workers and contribute socially. By “growing up”, we can move beyond style and ensure that we all have a happier and healthier City to live and work in.
Earle Arney is director of workplace at Woods Bagot.