Monday, October 23, 2006

Inaugural skyscraper hunt

Here's the first proper, on-topic blog.

I think - to avoid having posts which are too long - I will generally write up a day's skyscraper hunting in installments. Like David Blunkett, only with less mental instability and parental disputes. The unfortunate thing is that this week I'm going back to Wales for a few days so won't have internet access, so can't do that for my first one, which is arguably the most momentous one. Ah well.

On Saturday I went to look for the bishopsgate tower and the shard of glass, with the aim of taking photos documenting the starting state (well, as far as my blog is concerned). All told, it was a bit of a shambles. It turns out my knowledge of London skyscrapers isn't what I thought it was.

  • Bishopsgate tower isn't being built where I thought it was. The building which is being built is Broadgate Tower - a bit like the John Hancock tower in Boston - and impressive in its own right;

  • Across the road from the Gherkin is the Willis building, which I didn't even know was there. The unexpected highlight of the afternoon as I didn't even know it existed, and I took some videos of a great shimmery effect you get off the windows;

  • The building I thought was the beginnings of the shard of glass isn't. I did wonder why the Broadgate tower had got to about 15 storeys and yet was still just a steel frame, while the shard was 10 storeys or so and already fully glazed. I had just assumed it was a new building technique similar to how they dig tunnels with those big machines that continuously lay the tiling behind them as they drill through th erock at the front. Come to think of it, the Willis building is already fairly glazed despite looking far from structurally complete, so maybe buildings do get built this way (but then again, I'm no judge of the completeness of buildings, unless all the nice looking cladding is on.)

A few things I noticed are:

  • trains from Liverpool street go right under Broadgate Tower. This means the foundations can't be all that deep (or they'd get in the way of the trains). The trains surface about 15m to the North of the tower - well within reach if it were to topple. You have been warned;

  • modern architecture looks far worse next to old buildings if it self-consciously tries to fit in. There are a handful of egregious examples in the square mile. I think I'll hold an occasional award for truly awful mock-gothic corporate buildings. I may even post letters to the guilty firms' chief executives notifying them of their grave errors.

  • to (presumably) attract businesses to fill the mushrooming office space along bishopsgate there are billboards emphasising why they should move their. Curiously, twice as much space is given over to stating the amount of glass and cardboard recycled on the street as there is to pointing out now excellent the transport links are. I think the advertisers have a very poor understanding of a modern business' priorities.

I don't have time today to upload photos to Flickr. BT have accidentally disconnected our broadband at home so I can't take care of it tonight either. But (fingers crossed) embedded is one of the willis building videos.

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