London's Growing Up! Exhibition Private View

Thursday 3 April 2014

© Agnese Sanvito

© CPAT / Hayes Davidson / Jason Hawkes

The way in which tall buildings relate to the ground plane is just as important as the silhouette they cast on London’s skyline.

So said Foster and Partners’ Spencer de Grey as he opened the blockbuster exhibition on tall buildings at the NLA, ‘London’s Growing Up!’ last night.

De Grey – whose practice Foster and Partners designed the Swiss Re building which topped the show’s popular vote of tall buildings in London as part of a MORI poll, told the large audience that his practice chose to make the Gherkin taller in order to maximise the amount of space at ground level given over to the public realm. This, he said, was a similar move to that the firm made in Frankfurt with its Commerzbank building creating a relationship with smaller structures at its base enclosing a public space, restaurant and art gallery. ‘I think these considerations of the impact of high rise at ground level are extraordinarily important’, said de Grey, ‘and I think any building has to grow out of the ground upwards…and from the qualities that make London’s streets special’.

‘London’s Growing Up!’, features an accompanying events programme of conferences, think tanks and public talks running until June and is, said de Grey, the starting point of a very important debate for the capital.

The show features a mass of information and research, images and models on the 230-plus tall buildings which are in the pipeline for the capital, as well as surveys and regulations which have affected, and continue to impact on, this building type.

Show curator Peter Murray said that amongst a flurry of media attention on the subject the NLA is proposing an idea for a Skyline Commission to oversee the detailed development of London’s tall buildings – and how they meet the ground – in a capital city faced with sharp population rises over the near future.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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