NLA tall building research results: good design is important but we don’t want to live in them – what Londoners really think of tall buildings

Wednesday 26 March 2014

© CPAT / Hayes Davidson / Jason Hawkes

To coincide with the exhibition London’s Growing Up! NLA have conducted an in-depth poll in conjunction with Ipsos MORI, to establish how Londoners really feel about the increasing number of tall buildings planned for their capital.

The Norman Foster-designed 30 St Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin, was chosen as Londoners’ favourite building with 36 per cent from a selection of 13 tall towers. Western Europe’s tallest building, The Shard, ranked in second place and newcomer to the London skyline, The Leadenhall Building (nicknamed the Cheesegrater) ranked third. The historic Barbican was chosen as Londoners least favourite tall building.

When asked to consider the number of tall buildings in the capital 45 per cent felt that tall buildings had improved the London skyline. 40 per cent disagreed with the statement that ‘there are too many tall buildings in London’.

Whether the design fits in with the London skyline topped the list of Londoners’ priorities
 when constructing new towers. 53 per cent chose this as their highest or second highest priority. Design and affordability were also priorities, 35 per cent chose whether it has good design and 32 per cent felt affordable housing was a necessity in new towers. Young Londoners’ let design take a backseat than the older demographic with their priorities focused on whether the new towers could offer new job opportunities.

Most Londoners didn’t aspire to live in tall buildings
. Young men proved the most likely to want to live in towers but were still heavily outnumbered by those not wanting to move upward. The figures also showed that seven out of ten over 34’s were unwilling to live in the high-rise towers.

When it came to work however – 61 per cent of Londoners were happy to work in tall buildings, rising to 72 per cent amongst the younger demographic.

26 per cent wanted to see more tall buildings being built than in the last five years although 37 per cent of Londoners wanted to see fewer. Inner Londoners wanted the construction of fewer tall buildings than those that live in the outer suburbs and more men voted for an increase in tall buildings than women.

When asked if enough was being done to control the construction of tall buildings, the vote was pretty evenly split
 – 31 per cent yes and 26 per cent no, with the rest unsure.

The results of this poll follows fresh on the heels of an NLA and GL Hearn building survey, released at MIPIM, which found that there are at least 236 towers above 20 storeys currently planned for the London.

Ben Marshall, Research Director, Ipsos MORI, said: “With London facing a ‘housing crisis’ and keen to grow economically, the onus tends to be on the quantity of new building. Tall towers offer promise, but our new poll for New London Architecture underlines the importance the London public place on quality and design. Opinion is mixed – Londoners might like looking at tall towers, but they are less sure about living in them.”

Peter Murray, Chairman of NLA and curator of London’s Growing Up! said: "I am pleased to see that more people these days are in favour of tall buildings than against - well designed towers in the right place can enhance the skyline. Equally bad ones do the opposite.  We must be vigilant. The quantity of buildings coming through the system is such that we need to make sure the right controls are in place, that is why we are calling for the Mayor to set up a London Skyline Commission to ensure that only best quality buildings get through the net." 

For full results see

The full NLA Insight Study will be launched next Wednesday.

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