Ruined the shard of London's skyline

London's skyline is changing rapidly. In no other city in Europe are so many skyscrapers currently shooting into the sky. And the pace will accelerate. The number of planned high-rise buildings almost doubled last year. “The capital,” the Times wrote, “is experiencing its biggest building boom since World War II.” Not all Londoners are happy about it.

As a report by the lobby organization New London Architecure revealed, there are currently 436 projects of buildings that are more than 20 floors high. Last year it was “only” 263. London is facing a forest of skyscrapers. Of the 436 high-rise buildings, 89 are currently being built, and a further 233 have building permits. The rest still have to overcome bureaucratic hurdles, but it cannot be assumed that this should cause problems: only three skyscraper projects were rejected by city planners last year.

Norman Foster can boast of paving the way for the boom. The star architect, known in Germany for the design of the Reichstag dome, has caused something of a trend reversal with a 180-meter-high office tower completed in 2004. The building immediately became extremely popular due to its elegant pine cone design and was promptly given a nickname: Gherkin, the cucumber. It was the first office tower in London's financial district in 25 years, and it kicked off a wave. In the next few years, a number of other spectacular skyscrapers were built, which were also given nicknames due to their idiosyncratic shapes: from the “cheese grater” to the “walkie-talkie” to the “shard”, the tallest tower in Western Europe.

The financial districts in the city and in Canary Wharf, the Thames Corridor and the Greenwich Peninsula around the O2 arena are the main metropolitan areas for the now planned and partly under construction skyscrapers. The city administration is banking on unlimited growth, because according to official projections, London will continue to attract more and more people: of the current 8.5 million inhabitants, there should be a good ten million in 2030. The city urgently needs housing. 40,000 to 50,000 new homes are needed every year, but only about half of them are currently being built. Since you don't want to touch the green belt, only the height remains.

"We are in a perfect storm," complains Barbara Weiss from the Skyline Campaign, "from a combination of a housing shortage and a huge amount of international capital that is looking for lucrative investments." Your organization is fighting against "the slums of the future" - with little hope. The publicist Simon Jenkins also railed against the "phallic obsession that is destroying London's skyline". But the administrative structure makes it easy for investors. There is no central urban planning that steers the building boom in an orderly manner. And the city councils have a strong incentive for approval: every new project must make a financial contribution to the infrastructure and affordable housing.