The UK skyline has changed beyond recognition over the past 100 years. But until the 1980s and the completion of the then NatWest Tower, there wasn’t a single building worthy of the title ‘tower’ – let alone ‘skyscraper’. So, what’s changed?
Partly, the increased popularity of high-rise buildings is a result of new construction methods and materials. Add in the soaring price of land, particularly in the inner cities, the increasing wealth of multi-nationals using the capital as their base, and the futurist imagination of a new generation of architects, and it’s not surprising that some of our larger cities increasingly resemble Manhattan rather than Macclesfield.
Currently, there are over 1,200 buildings of at least 50m tall across the UK. However, if we accept the standard definition of a skyscraper as being at least 150m tall, just 31 buildings qualify – almost all of which are in London.
So, what high-rise buildings are currently under development, and will any overtake Britain’s tallest skyscraper, the 300m-Shard?
Build in Digital lists the tallest and most exciting skyscrapers under development right now.
London: The Trellis
1 Undershaft (pictured above) will sit on the plot of what is currently St Helen’s Tower in London’s Square Mile.
There have been several planning applications for ‘The Trellis’, the most recent of which is for a 304m tower – which would make it the second tallest tower in the UK.
Work has not yet started on The Trellis, but when completed,the building will provide approximately 90,000 sqm of office space.
London: The Diamond
Also in the Square Mile, 100 Leadenhall Street would stand 247m tall, becoming the financial district’s third tallest building. Planning permission has been obtained, and once completed, ‘The Diamond’ will soar 56 storeys, tapering from a hexagon to a four-sided crown.
A number of other skyscrapers are at various stages in the planning process across the capital, mostly in the City, though plans for 305m ‘The Tulip’ were rejected by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2019. Foster + Partners, who are behind the design, appealed against the decision and the result of the appeal is due soon.
Manchester: The Blade and the Cylinder
The vast majority (107) of 100m+ skyscrapers are in London, but other cities are beginning to catch up – noticeably Manchester, with 14 structures at least 100m tall in 2021. Manchester has seen an explosion in high-rise buildings in recent years, many of these – such as Deansgate Square (201m) – being all or mostly residential.
Developer Renaker has submitted proposals for twin 52-storey towers in Manchester’s Crown Street development. Each of the towers – The Blade and The Cylinder – would stand 154m tall and together provide around 890 apartments, with a two-storey podium connecting the towers containing retail outlets, gym, and car park.
Manchester: Viadux Tower
At 138m, the 40-storey Viadux Tower in Manchester’s CBD is yet another tall residential building in a city already well-known for them. The scheme hit problems in March 2021 when Ask pulled out of the £300m project, which will now be solely developed by Salboy.
Once completed, apartments in the building will be priced at a minimum of £265,000.
Birmingham: Thorp Tower
Perhaps unfairly, Birmingham is better known for its Bullring and Spaghetti Junction than its skyscrapers. If completed, Thorp Tower will stand at 190m, making it the city’s tallest structure.
The tower would comprise 435 homes, bars and a sky garden, from which all of Birmingham’s glories can be viewed.
How high can they go?
Outside London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, the UK has very few genuine skyscrapers. Indeed, the only 100m+ building outside England is Swansea’s Meridian Quay Tower, which at 107m is the tallest in Wales and the 90th highest in the UK.
Scotland, which was once home to some of the tallest residential towers in the UK at Glasgow’s infamous Red Road Flats, doesn’t have a single skyscraper to its name.
At 300m high, The Shard is the UK’s tallest building and the seventh tallest in Europe. However, even it is dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which levelled out at 828m in 2010 and remains the tallest building in the world.
Once completed, the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia will become the world’s first 1km tower. But some engineers believe a mile-high (1600m) building is theoretically possible.
How high can they go? The sky’s the limit.
Main image: The Trellis. Credit: DBOX for Eric Parry Architects. Article written by Mark Piggott.
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