London's race skyward continues at a fast clip with the announcement that the planning commission just approved 22 Bishopsgate, a 62-story tower designed by Karen Cook at PLP Architecture. Set to begin construction next year and finish in 2019, the structure will sit at the apex of a cluster of towers in the financial district and be London's second-tallest, after the 95-story Shard. Part of the vertical boom that is reshaping the London skyline, the tower was designed with extended floorplans that deliver a total of 1.3 million square feet of space, creating a "vertical village" that can fit roughly 12,000 workers. According to PLP partner David Leventhal, it's designed to fit in with the array of towers surrounding it and serve as an elegant centerpiece; others, such as Guardian critic Oliver Wainwright, have labeled it an "oversized brute" that will "block out the sun."
According to Leventhal, the go-ahead signals a change for London.
"Any building of this scale is bound to attract fairly polarizing views," he says. "It's part of this larger cluster, which means it's very visible. One way to look at this is that it's a watershed moment for London. The fact that the city approved it speaks to the identity of the city. Compare it to the clash of icons found in a city such as Dubai. This is simple, understated, calm."
The newly approved project took over from the Pinnacle, an unfinished building designed by KPF that only rose a few stories before the Saudi and Kuwaiti consortium funding the project was knocked out by the recession (PLP was founded by architects who left KPF to start their own firm).
Leventhal says the building was designed to add to the surrounding area without leaving an oversized footprint. It's about the experience inside, as well as the public spaces layered throughout and at the top of the structure. Even the curtain wall, which will be made from a double-layer of clear glass that provides high performance as well as extensive daylight, appears to be designed around the interior experience. In addition, a centralized delivery system and a gallery-like first floor will minimize disturbances at ground level and create a more inviting, street-level entryway.