August 27, 2014

Memo From London: New Builds

London’s evolution has always been driven by commerce and culture, with both contributing significantly to the city’s shifting scenery. Since its completion in 2012, The Shard by Renzo Piano has risen like a 95-storey beacon signalling better times ahead for the beleaguered building industry. Across the River Thames in the capital’s financial heartland, several other significant skyscrapers that had been stalled by the economic slump have recently been completed, including Rafael Viñoly’s top-heavy 20 Fenchurch Street and a 224-metre tower by Richard Rogers, known as “The Cheesegrater” because of its wedge-shaped profile.

One of the last remaining brownfield sites in central London at Nine Elms is currently being transformed into a residential and commercial district with the renovated Battersea Power Station as its centrepiece. Two new London Underground stations, the new US Embassy, and a boulevard flanked by apartments and retail units designed by Frank Gehry and Foster+Partners will revitalize the semi-derelict area between Battersea Park and Vauxhall.

The areas around two of the city’s historic railway stations are being transported into the twenty-first century by extensive regeneration programmes. A $2.2 billion development to the north of King’s Cross station will see 2,000 homes, 20 streets and 10 public squares created, as well as offices including Google’s new London headquarters. The station itself has also received significant investment, with a new concourse by John McAslan + Partners sheltered beneath a spectacular lattice canopy. Meanwhile, a 897,000 square-foot mixed-use development in front of Victoria station will incorporate offices, restaurants, bars, retail and 170 apartments overlooking Buckingham Palace.

In the museum district of South Kensington, a new streetscape by Dixon Jones Architects has created a scenic boulevard between the underground station and Hyde Park, while John Pawson’s transformation of the Commonwealth Institute into a new home for the Design Museum is scheduled for completion next year.

Plans emerged last year for a new bridge spanning the Thames in central London. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the proposed structure will support a pedestrian walkway and a public garden planted with trees, adding to the city’s already abundant array of public parks.

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