Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iconic buildings in the shadow of each other

LONDON. Every city wants an iconic building that becomes a well-known trademark around the world. A big city usually has several, many of them historical buildings that have been around for ages.
For the past 10-20 years architects have, with the assistance of new computer technology, been able to outdo each other in their ambition to secure the iconic label with buildings that twist and turn in mindboggling ways.
On the way back to my hotel in London recently, I stopped to look at a big hole in the ground where one such building is under way.
It’s called The Pinnacle and it will spiral 287 meters towards the sky in London’s financial district, a few blocks from Liverpool Street Station.
This is how the architect, Kohn Pedersen Fox, describes the project:
“The tower’s complex tapered geometry – resolved through advanced computational parametric modelling – comprises inwardly planar surfaces, which are linked by conical surfaces.”
Looking at images (see below) of the future tower, you could also describe it like this:
Take a piece of thick, triangular paper, roll it tightly together and raise it like an imaginary tower.
The Pinnacle will dominate the skyline and overshadow what is now the symbol of London’s financial district – Norman Foster’s “the Gherkin” (right) from 2004. That is of course not the real name of the building, which is usually known as 30 St Mary Axe after its address.
This 180-metre circular tower must be one the most beautiful tall buildings in the world, but it now runs the risk of being dwarfed by other, taller buildings.
These are, by the way, interesting streets to walk around if you like to see unusual buildings. Just a short stroll from “the Gherkin” you’ll find the Lloyd’s Building (left) from 1986, one these “inside-out” buildings (think Pompidou Centre in Paris).
It’s hard to take your eyes off this building, designed by Richard Rogers. Like a shining factory in the midst of strict office buildings it stands out not because of height but because its peculiarity.
Pipes, tubes, ladders and lifts run on the outside of the building. It shows the anatomy of a building deprived of its protective skin.
The Pinnacle will face tough competition in these neighbourhoods. Size will not guarantee victory in the coming architectural beauty contest.

30 St Mary Axe will be dwarfed by taller neighbours.

Copyright: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and Cityscape
The Pinnacle, swirling towards the sky, will dominate London's skyline.

The Lloyd's Building is one of the most unusual in London.

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