The City’s towers rise up from ancient streets, and the contrast is sublime
We can become desensitised to the rich history and incredible architectural tapestry that makes the City what it is.
We can shuffle from Tube station to office to restaurant and home again, all without stopping as often as we should to take note of our surroundings and consider our immense good fortune that we work and play in one of the most stimulating and beautiful parts of the capital.
When I started at this paper four years ago, the walk to work on a Sunday was eerily quiet. No shops or bars were open and few tourists ventured this way. Today, the City is a destination – even on a Sunday. One of the reasons must be the stunning architectural contrasts on display.
I see people setting up cameras on the pavement to capture the curve of Eastcheap and its row of centuries-old buildings now dwarfed by the City’s towers. Dwarfed, but not overshadowed.
It looks as if the Tulip will soon join our ever-changing skyline. The Foster & Partners tower will rise to 300m and the “bud” at the top will offer 12 storeys of restaurants, viewing platforms and educational facilities. Not everybody likes the look of it, but I love it.
As the chairman of the City Corporation’s planning committee said when he gave it the green light: “This building has the potential to play an important role in realising our vision of the Square Mile as a vibrant 24/7 city.”
In addition, it will present another thrilling tower to stand watch over the thousand-year-old streets beneath it.
Walk up Philpot Lane from the direction of the Monument and the muscular Walkie Talkie building looms on your right. You feel its presence.
Ahead of you, the sharp, strutting Cheesegrater fills the sky and yet within just a few steps, one can find the sanctuary of the 800-year-old Leadenhall market. I could go on.
These pockets of exhilarating contrast present themselves round every corner of the City, and the Tulip will be a worthy addition to our patch.
Banking on a gentle breeze
As has become tradition I shall be joining the Lord Mayor for the annual charity abseil down one of the financial district’s landmarks.
This year, the Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf (a modest 500ft) will allow us to scramble down from its roof.
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal helps a range of important charities, and if you feel able to support, please do so via this link.
May they rest in peace
Wednesday marked the 27th anniversary of the Baltic Exchange bombing by the IRA which killed three people and injured nearly 100. The one-ton bomb was the biggest detonated in mainland Britain since the Second World War and devastated the area around St Mary Axe.
Several retired police officers shared their memories on Twitter this week of arriving on the scene to find horror and carnage. The three killed were Paul Butt (20), Thomas Casey (49) and Danielle Carter (15).
Attention all runners
City A.M. is able to offer you a place in the 2020 London Marathon, thanks to the wonderful charity Give Them a Sporting Chance. Founded in 1990 the charity provides incredible experiences for people with disabilities and their carers.
Its patron, HRH The Princess Royal, has asked us to identify a runner who could take a marathon place on their behalf. Her Royal Highness would expect a decent time and considerable fundraising success. Email me if you’d like to compete.
A revolution in Berlin
I had a drink on Tuesday night with Dr Rainer Zitelmann, the German author, academic and entrepreneur. His books on the psychological traits of the super-rich and in defence of capitalism are tremendous, so it was a pleasure to talk to him.
In the vault bar of The Ned – a former bank HQ – he stood out (though wasn’t out of place) in his “I Love Capitalism” T-shirt.
We talked about the views on Brexit in our respective countries, but he was more animated by another referendum – one that could soon take place in his native Berlin.
Eighty-five per cent of Berliners rent their home rather than own it, and anger has grown at the portfolios amassed by large landlords. If enough signatures are gathered a referendum could be forced, calling for the expropriation of property from companies that own more than 3,000 apartments.
Polls suggest it could pass, leaving the cash-strapped city council responsible for billions of euros in compensation. Truly these are revolutionary times in Berlin.