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Swiss Re Tower and other Skyscrapers in London

The world's tallest building is now in Qatar. In several years there will be an even taller one in Moscow. I sometimes wonder if there is some engineering limit to the height of buildings, or if, with new materials and building techniques we will end up taking elevators to the moon. In any case, while London is not, at least for the foreseeable future in the running for hosting the world's tallest building, the city does have an impressive skyline of skyscrapers and new ones on the way. If you are going to London, live there, or just like to view the skyscrapers in a world city, this hub might satisfy your curiosity as well as orient you in the U.K.'s capital.


Annotated View of Major Buildings in London-Click on the photo for a larger view



3 December 2009 - Mike Foster

Qatar pledges continued support for London skyscraper

The Qatari backers of London's tallest proposed skyscraper re-emphasised their commitment to the scheme yesterday with a visit by the Governor of the Qatar Central Bank to the development.

At a press event, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Saoud Al-Thani pledged that his state will back the development of the 94-storey tower at London Bridge to completion in 2012.

Reading from a prepared statement, he said: "We are confident that the Shard will become a landmark on the London skyline and a symbol of the close ties between Qatar and the United Kingdom."

Al-Thani visited the site to make the situation crystal clear, following turmoil in the Gulf triggered by Dubai World's announcement of a debt standstill last week.

Elsewhere, Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment is defending itself against a writ taken out by the Candy brothers over its decision to withdraw from plans to back their development of an apartment complex at London's Chelsea Barracks.

But Qatar is determined to maintain its involvement in the UK. Al-Thani's public statement amounts to a significant personal commitment. It still owns a 27% stake in Sainbury's, the supermarket chain, after deciding to pull out of a consortium bid for the company in 2007. It bought a supportive stake in Barclays in 2008, recently sold at a profit.

Qatar has also agreed to buy the US Embassy site in London's West End for redevelopment. UK property veteran Stephen Barter, a former partner at agent Richard Ellis (now part of CBRE), has emerged as a key adviser on the deal.

The Shard, officially named London Bridge Quarter, is Qatar's biggest commitment. On completion, it is expected to be worth £2bn. Transport for London has agreed to occupy 192,000 of the 1.4 million complex. The Shangri La hotel has pre-let 174,000 sq ft. The scheme is a joint venture between Sellar Property Group and Qatar.

In a month, the steel skeleton of the building will start to rise above the London skyline. According to Irvine Sellar, founder of SPG, "The building is set to go up at a rate of 1.5 floors a week. We are building about 30 acres worth of space on one acre, which presents additional challenges."

-- Write to Mike Foster at

                       --- END OF LATEST NEWS SECTION ---


Giant buildings began to appear at the end of the previous century but they are a hallmark of the twenty-first century. From Chicago to Shanghai these buildings are going up, up and away. They are daring examples of ultimate engineering, of national and urban pride and global mega-financing and architectural design.

You can call them glorious or you can call them monstrous. They defy the powers of winds and earthquakes and the dangers of terrorist attacks. Some of these giant buildings look like swords unsheathed reaching from earth to heaven, others imitate the spirals of nature. Probably the same impulses for a grand identity and reaching for immortality that initiated the Egyptian Pyramids have created the motivational foundations of these new wonders of the world.

Let’s look at some of the most remarkable already built and in the late planning stages in London, England. I can only introduce four buildings here, but at the bottom there is a video showing many more built and planned in the UK. The reason so many huge buildings are being built in one corner of London--the financial center known as The City--is simply that that small area concentrates one of the most intense centers of finance in the entire world and because of the growth of that business, companies are running out of space.

Amazing illustrated table showing all of London's tallest buildings with stats

                       I.  THE SWISS RE TOWER

More accurately known as the 30 St Mary Axe tower, the Swiss Re* Tower is named after the company that commissioned its development, which was completed in May, 2004. The building is also known as The Gherkin, after its pickle-shape. This building was London's first environmentally sustainable tall buildings. Unlike most giant buildings, this tower's windows open, allowing natural ventilation to supplement the normal mechanical systems.

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Swiss Re Tower was designed by architect Norman Foster. It was sold to a German investment group in 2007 for over one billion U.S. dollars.

*Swiss Re is the abbreviated name of the Swiss Reinsurance Company, which has been headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland since 1864. This company was a lead insurer of the New York World Trade Center at the time it was attacked. Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway company owns a 3% equity in this company with rights to own more than 20%. In 2009, Buffett invested more than two billion dollars in the company.

Swiss Re Tower - London

Swiss Re Tower - London

Swiss Re Tower - London

This is a magnificent photograph (public domain) showing two of London's tall buildings in juxtaposition to one of London's oldest and most famous buildings. On the left is Tower 42 - 183 meters (600 feet). On the right is the torpedo-shaped Swiss Re Tower - 180 meters (590 feet). The blue building on the left with cranes is the Lloyds Building. On the bottom right of the photo you can see the crenelated walls of the Tower of London.

The Swiss Re tower was completed in 2003. Tower 42 was completed in 1979. The original fortress of the Tower of London was completed in the year 1078 A.D by William the Conqueror. -- there have been additions and changes since.

                                       II. TOWER 42

Tower 42 London's Fifth Largest Skyscraper


Here is the Wikipedia description of Tower 42, as they say, once the tallest building in the UK, but now the fifth tallest. For the full description of the construction and history of Tower 42 go to the link below.

Tower 42 is the tallest skyscraper in the City of London and the fifth tallest in London as a whole. It was originally built for the National Westminster Bank (NatWest), hence its former name, the NatWest Tower. Seen from above,[1] the tower closely resembles the NatWest logo (three chevrons in a hexagonal arrangement). The tower, designed by Richard Seifert and engineered by Pell Frischmann, is located at 25 Old Broad Street. It was built by John Mowlem & Co[2] between 1971 and 1979, and opened in 1980, costing a total of £72 million (approximately £222 million today).[3]

It is 183 metres (600 ft) high, which made it the tallest building in the UK until the topping out of One Canada Square in Docklands in 1990. Although it remains the tallest building in the City of London, it will lose this status in late 2009, when Heron Tower has its topping out.

Wikipedia info on Tower 42

  • TOWER42 click here
    This is the link to the home site of the management of Tower 42. At this site you will find an inspiring interactive display of the building and its surroundings in London. I highly recommend it.

Tower 42 a survivor of terrorism

Somplace above I said that modern skyscrapers were built to withstand terrorism. Well, Tower 42 is a veteran survivor of a terrorist attack. On April 24, 1993, bombings by the Provisional IRA Army in the Bishopsgate area of London severely damaged the Natwest Tower (now named Tower 42) and many buildings in the area. The tower's outside walls were repaired and the interior completely refurbished. It would have been much more expensive to demolish the building. The National Westminster Bank (Natwest) sold the building, which was renamed Tower 42 and is now occupied by a number of different companies in various areas of business.

                            III.  THE PINNACLE


This skyscraper in the City of London financial district will top out at 63 stories, which is 945 feet or 288 meters tall. It is currently under construction (winter, 2009) and some adjustments are being made to the location of the columns and the width of the bridge between the feet of the building.

Information for engineers and architects:

The Pinnacle's geometry is composed of simple sheared cones filleting to tapered planes.

The Canopy is formed by pulling the snakeskin glazing away from the building, marking the passage entrance from Bishopsgate and grounding the tall form, relating in scale to the smaller buildings opposite. Its shape was extensively tested and reconfigured to mitigate wind for pedestrian comfort.

Sustainable systems are integral to the architectural design. The aerodynamic shape improves the performance of the naturally ventilating façade with its snakeskin design. The outer layer of glass protects the sun-shading which reduces heat gain. The glass façade allows ample natural light, reducing the amount of artificial light required. Photovoltaic cells along the spiral collar further reduces energy consumption. A BREEAM prediction assessment indicates that The Pinnacle will achieve an “Excellent” rating."


The Pinnacle (tall & swirly) also known as Bishopsgate Tower and Helter-Skelter


A Video Exploration of the Architecture and Meaning of the Pinnacle

My Jefferson in Paris Website

  • Thomas Jefferson in Paris 1784-1789
    In case you have an interest in Thomas Jefferson and a description (with photos, maps and links) of the Paris of his stay there as envoy from America (from 1784-1780), please visit my website at this link.

Books about London's Modern Buildings

Click this photo for a magnificent view of London including the Shard London Tower to be completed in 2012

On the border to your right you can see the Swiss Re Tower (the Gherkin) and Tower 42. Toward your left border you can see a drawing of the high, pointed Shard London Tower to be completed in 2012 (architect, Renzo Piano). It will stand 1, 017 feet (

On the border to your right you can see the Swiss Re Tower (the Gherkin) and Tower 42. Toward your left border you can see a drawing of the high, pointed Shard London Tower to be completed in 2012 (architect, Renzo Piano). It will stand 1, 017 feet (

London Guides

Video Showing UK Skyscrapers in London and Elswhere

Interesting Opinion Column about the Problems of London's Skyscrapers

World's Tallest Building: Burj Dubai - long article from 2/2/10


michaelhiltams on June 09, 2012:

you ok tommy it took me ages to find it here is there contact

and some info ,give them a call , mention m hiltams put you on

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