From £448,000: 45-storey Baltimore Tower, Canary Wharf, has 330 flats and a top-floor cocktail bar
Two hundred London skyscrapers are being built or have planning consent, 150 of them residential towers of at least 20 storeys. During the next decade, the capital’s skyline will be redrawn, with high-rise clusters in Shoreditch, Nine Elms, Greenwich, Elephant & Castle and Croydon joining those in the City and Canary Wharf.
London’s spiralling population and land scarcity are driving this construction boom. Lovers of tall towers say they allow thousands more people to live and be employed in central zones near major transport hubs, and that they have tremendous power to regenerate the area around them.
“We’re becoming a vertical city,” says Peter Murray, curator at New London Architecture, a forum for urban design and planning. “High-rise flats were once only seen on council estates, but luxury private towers now account for the majority of new homes in the capital.”
Spectacular city views
Unlike the discredited local authority concrete towers of the Sixties and Seventies, Barbican excepted, today’s skyscrapers appeal to middle- to high-income urbanites who relish the glamour of tower living and the convenience of hotel-style services — valet parking, 24-hour concierge, security and spas.
Spectacular views are another big draw, and with each new eye-catching skyscraper the vista becomes even more impressive. Developers have latched on to the value of a view and carefully price each flat according to height, size and aspect.
Imaginative architecture gives shape and character to an area, while in an interior, it lets light flood in via floor-to-ceiling glass walls and year-round enclosed winter gardens. The higher the flat, the more expensive it is, with penthouses commanding the biggest price premium. Circular towers allow big-budget buyers to purchase whole floors with dramatic 360-degree views — such as one apartment at 49-storey St George Wharf Tower, Vauxhall, which Mark Griffiths, managing director of developer St George, calls “a super-yacht in the sky”.
His new project is One Blackfriars, a 50-storey skyscraper being built at the foot of the bridge and already smashing price records for South Bank homes — studio apartments cost from £960,000. The glass-clad tower swells out towards the top and when complete in 2016 will be similar in height to the Gherkin. Call 020 7871 7188.
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Pop art revival: Centre Point homes and shops, Tottenham Court Road
Height of fashion
South-of-the-river skyscrapers offer particularly splendid views, big colour-changing skies and shimmering reflections off the water — plus the northern light favoured by artists. The South Bank, stretching from Tower Bridge to Nine Elms, is a skyscraper hotspot with more than 20 towers in the pipeline. City Road, a once unloved and dowdy district between Angel and Old Street, is another high-rise zone, getting a £1 billion facelift with projects such as Silicon Tower, Canaletto, and The Eagle, priced to attract young City professionals.
Posh people often spurn these new-era locations and stick to the safe prestige of a traditional address. But for a younger breed of web entrepreneurs, fashion designers and media executives, areas such as Bankside, Waterloo and Shoreditch are top of the list.
Sleek skyscrapers are even sprouting up in the Square Mile. The Heron has 285 apartments above a new concert hall and premises for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and includes a private club and roof garden for residents. Many of the flats have been bought as first homes rather than weekday crashpads — proving this is a place where people want to put down roots. And there are Wolf of Wall Street-style penthouses with retractable roof, gym and cinema. From £3.6 million to £12 million. Call 0845 533 8000.
Even Centre Point, London’s original “Pop Art” office tower, built in 1966 and listed in 1995 despite being reviled by many as a concrete eyesore, is being relaunched with 82 private flats. This patch of the West End is undergoing the biggest change since the Sixties, spurred by the Crossrail station being built at Tottenham Court Road where “over-site” development is set to bring more high-rise homes, an upgraded shopping quarter and transform the scruffy public realm.
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Mayor Boris Johnson’s London Plan insists the design of new tall buildings must relate well to the existing urban “grain”, especially at ground level, and achieve high standards of ecology, architecture and construction. Public viewing galleries and mid-level sky gardens with bars and restaurants are also encouraged, though the requirement for on-site affordable housing is being relaxed.
Canary Wharf is in line for a second wave of skyscrapers, with up to a dozen due in the next five years. Baltimore Tower, a distinctive twist design with a cocktail bar at the top, has 330 flats priced from £448,000 to £1,301,000-plus. Call Galliard on 020 8418 3730.
Towers are also rising in outer suburbs such as Ealing, where the high-rise lifestyle is more affordable. At Great West Quarter, Ealing Road, Brentford, flats cost from £390,000 in a 26-storey tower that features an art installation lighting up the skies of west London — one of the largest light sculptures in the UK. Call Barratt on 0844 811 4334.
In Croydon, where a £1 billion Westfield shopping mall is at the heart of a new town centre revival, developers are creating designer flats with all the trimmings. The Tower in Saffron Square has 414 flats plus rooftop terrace, restaurants, art gallery and shops facing a new one-acre public square. Prices from £240,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 8774 9888.
From £390,000: homes at Great West Quarter, Brentford. Call 0844 811 4334
The skyline timeline
Several skyscrapers are due for completion this year while others will begin to make their mark on the horizon. At 42-storey Manhattan Loft Gardens in Stratford, sky gardens built into the structure are designed as a modern take on traditional London garden squares. Homes will be available to buy soon off-plan. Call 020 8534 3318.
Altitude in Alie Street, E1, has 27 storeys and 235 flats. Prices from £658,000. Call Barratt on 0844 811 4334. One Commercial Street, a 21-storey tower with 137 flats, is nearing completion above Aldgate East Tube station. Prices from £465,000. Call DTZ on 020 3296 4043. South Bank Tower is another notable project, with 191 flats and one of London’s largest private roof gardens, plus a residents’ lounge and sky bar. Prices from £625,000. Call CBRE on 020 7182 2477.
From £625,000: inside a penthouse at South Bank Tower, Blackfriars, which has a private roof garden and sky bar. Call 020 7182 2477
Elephant & Castle, the cheapest Zone 1 location is on the rise with a cluster of towers including 37-storey One the Elephant, where flats are launching soon. Call Lend Lease on 020 3667 1522. And after a long planning wrangle, the Mayor has approved a 335-home 50-storey tower in SE1, with triple-glazing to reduce noise from the Ministry of Sound nightclub next door.
* A free exhibition, London’s Growing Up, will run at New London Architecture, 26 Store St, WC1 from April 3 to June 12.