Thursday 20 November 2003 10.51pm
I've just joined this website, and I'm sure this has all been thrashed out before, so forgive me...
An addition to the skyline? That sums up the argument behind those who argue for the glass shard. Such tall buildings, and this one is very, very tall, can only be apprieciated from afar, cf. Canary Wharf Tower - fine at 3 miles distant, with that oh-so-whacky pyramid on top, but dating a bit now; soulless, looming and damned windy close up. My objection is that the shard is SO tall and SO out of scale with any surrounding structure that it will dominate (in the worst sense of the word) the whole area. You won't be able not to see it, and I think we should have that choice. It is an exercise in egotistical intimidation by Sgr. Enzio, and, as we know, an egotist hates competition. All other buildings in the area, past OR future, especially future, will be in the shadow (often literally) of this colossal office building. And remember it IS just an office building. Unless anyone is proposing that all future buildings are constructed to the same height.
There is a sensible way of regenerating the area and a short-term-fix way. This is the latter. The pro-shard argument runs something like this: why aren't people investing in London Bridge/Borough (they are, but we have to maintain the fiction that its a neglected area to justify this argument)? Because it's dowdy, depressing, old-fashioned, backward-looking, etc. (Didn't stop the posters on this site in favour of the shard coming here, but never mind.) How, therefore, can we stop its being so old-fashioned, stuck in c.19th, etc.? Answer: build a huge "iconic" statement of our belief in the future. A self-consciously early c. 21st structure. That'll show 'em! The trouble is, one building will not regenerate the area. Never has done. To return to the Canary Wharf Tower example - that has created a besuited enclave for City boys, but has not brought any real regeneration (as was promised) to the surrounding area. Hands up who pops over there for a drink on a Saturday night. Anyone?
Regenerating an area requires a more intelligent approach that exploits the resources of an area for the common good, and doesn't rely on the architectural equivalent of a government "initiative". People with money to spend have been relocating here for several years now - it wasn't because of a spurious landmark. It was partly because of relatively lower property prices (which supporters of the shard boast will go through the roof now. Oh great), and also because the Borough and Bermondsey AREN'T the City, aren't dominated by office towers, and do have a bit of period character, which seems to go down well with most of us (are Borough Market
and environs quiet at the end of the week?). Sarf of the River has its own character which is determinedly not like its northern cousin. The shard is too much like trying to keep up with the Joneses - "the tallest building in Europe" - as if it's a competition. It all seems rather desperate ('If we don't have this "landmark" right now, it'll consign us to a new Dark Age!').
And it's not as if it's particularly original. It's another plate-glass office building, for goodness' sake. Not a regular cuboid, you say? Well, it's hardly the first office block to try that. The only difference is that it is very, very, very tall. Yes, very.