My commentary on Eric Parry's Undershaft project for a new City of London office tower, from last week's AJ:
Eric Parry’s design is a good and pleasingly modest proposal for the new peak of the City’s ‘Eastern cluster’ of towers. Recent skyscraper building in central London has seen a rather attention-seeking crowd of starchitect designs accumulating within the jumbled medieval street layout – curvy in the case of Foster and Viñoly, angular for Rogers and Piano. In its contingent messiness, it is a very London cluster, in spite of this international provenance, which contrasts with the calm, orthogonal approach to tall buildings raised on a north American-style masterplan grid at Canary Wharf.
Parry has matured into an acknowledged master of the high end, contextual city building. Here, this approach is taken to new heights, but in its response to its surroundings, it exhibits the same thoughtfulness at seventy storeys as seen at a tenth that height in other projects by this practice which are set within traditional city block contexts. There isn’t room for another trophy here, and the relative straightforwardness of what is proposed can be read as an implied rebuke to some of its predecessors.
The limits of the Eastern cluster are largely determined by London’s protected heritage views, and new towers here need to be squeezed into an area of about one tenth of the Square Mile. The cluster is getting denser, not bigger, with several other very large towers in the same area planned but not yet built. It may soon begin to call to mind a crowd of lanky shipwreck survivors huddled together on an island not quite big enough for them - as the tide rises. Thank God for what we used to know as the CU Plaza that will, in an improved form, provide at least some sort of setting for these huge buildings.