Above: Long view from Queen Victoria Street, looking NE towards the Royal Exchange with the half-glazed, rising office block in the background, called 22 Bishopsgate.
For those of us who remember the Nat West Tower – now known as Tower 42 – being built and worrying that such a tall tower was going up in the City, another shock to the system is about to take place as even taller and bulkier offices blocks are being built at the time of writing. In case you have forgotten, Richard Seifert’s Nat West Tower was 183 metres (600 feet) in height, being opened as headquarters for the famous bank in 1981 – the tallest building in the City at the time. It had taken 10 years to build (1971–80). In 1998, the building passed into new ownership and was renamed Tower 42 because it has 42 full-size cantilevered floors.
It’s not that the new offices are not required. All these edifices are built by private money and they are built with the knowledge that the vast expense of construction will be recouped in office rents once they are completed. The point of issue is that the entire fabric of the City is being changed once and for all. Even the historic buildings that are left standing are being denied sunlight as these giant new structures loom over them, preventing the morning or evening light which they have enjoyed for decades, sometimes even centuries, from ever reaching them again.
The top picture shows how gigantic some of the new blocks are. It was taken from Queen Victoria Street and looks towards the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. It is just possible to see some of the pillars on the portico of the Royal Exchange – looking minuscule against the scale of the new office, called 22 Bishopsgate, being erected to the east of it. The 62-storey offices will rise to 278 m (912 feet) – just over 300 feet taller than Tower 42.
Above: Looking south in Bishopsgate from near Liverpool Street Station. The large offices on the left (east) side of Bishopsgate are closing off the sky in the view.
In the lower picture, taken from outside the Bishopsgate entrance to Liverpool Street Station, the whole of Bishopsgate used to enjoy the morning sunshine on its western side. With the new towering blocks, the sun will no longer shine on the street even during the summer months. In the future many City streets will suffer the same fate, becoming shadowy chasms that lack the sparkle they once had as the sun shone on the days with blue skies.