Thursday, May 02, 2013

Living the high-rise life

click photo to enlarge
On my recent trip to London I walked up the south bank of the Thames, past the MI5 building, to Vauxhall to see St George Wharf and, in particular, a new 50 storey residential tower that is approaching completion. This area has been developed with a complex of expensive and distinctive, river-side towers and blocks. The shiny new skyscraper that has grown up beside them seems to have settled on the generic and rather presumptuous name of The Tower.

Will such a name last? Can it when it is one among many towers? Is this a grab for a name that distinguishes it from all the other particular towers? Who knows? What I do know is that already the building has a certain fame and notoriety. On completion its 594 feet (181 metres) it will be the tallest residential tower in the UK, and this fact has caused some commentators to say it is too high for the area and too high for its relative proximity to the Palace of Westminster. Fame of a different type attached to the tower when, on 16th January 2013, a helicopter struck the construction crane attached to the building, causing the helicopter to crash into the road below, hitting two cars, killing the pilot and another person, and setting two buildings on fire. Such an occurrence is, thankfully, very uncommon, yet the fact that it has happened once must put the thought of it happening again into the minds of some high-rise residents, and will make people consider the down-side as well as the up-side (pun intended) of high-rise living.

The exterior of the new tower is, to my mind, fine without being particularly special. The broadly cylindrical shape is not unpleasant but doesn't offer an overall form or specific details that strongly distinguish it from others or that cause the viewer's gaze to linger. The blue glass looks attractive, as blue glass often does, yet one has to wonder how much longer it can survive as the default tint. The tower is topped by a disguised wind turbine to power some of its lighting and heat-pump technology will take warmth from the water of the London aquifer. These and other design features will mean it needs about one third of the energy that a typical tower of this size consumes, and its carbon dioxide emissions will be half to two thirds that of a similar structure.

I spent a few minutes watching the workmen as they went about the task of putting the finishing touches to the building. Two orange clad men made useful indicators of the scale of the structure. They were dangling on ropes and appeared to be washing the windows (surely not) or applying something to the glass or glazing frame. Incidentally, the smaller photo is a crop of a larger image.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20.4mm (55mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On