Completion of City of London’s tallest skyscraper in doubt

Continued building work on The Pinnacle may be shelved as owners struggle to pre-let space, according to lead architect Lee Polisano.

The news comes amid growing concern for the City of London’s future skyscraper projects, as investigators find at least six landmark developments have been postponed or cancelled all-together.

The Pinnacle – nicknamed the ‘Helter Skelter’ for its spiralling design – was set to be the tallest building in the City of London at 944ft (63 storeys), 144ft taller than One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

Work began on The Pinnacle in 2009, but repeated funding issues and delays have put future construction on hold until 2013, by which time it will have remained less than half-completed for nearly a year.

A legal dispute between the contractor and developer has led one of the lead architects to voice his concerns over the completion of the £1bn tower.

Speaking to BBC’s Inside Out programme, Lee Polisano, who was the lead architect for KPF throughout the design stages, said: “My own belief is the building that gets built will probably be a different building to that there at the moment.

“It is a shame that we have a very important piece of land at this key site that’s empty. It is logical to understand in these economic times a building of that sort is a difficult building to make financially, so I am not surprised to see something so ambitious being stopped.”

Jerry Swain, regional secretary of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, believes the instability of the current economic climate is making it impossible for building work to continue on schedule.

He said: “The Pinnacle is perhaps the biggest example of this recession. It’s like the hokey cokey for workers – they are in they are out, they’re in they’re out. It’s just unbelievable to watch that project – it’s become farcical.”

Project developers declined to comment.

Construction on the new skyscraper at 100 Bishopsgate has also been bought to a halt as developers look to find enough advanced tenants to make the 564ft tower economically viable.

Similarly, the building known colloquially as the ‘Can of Ham’ on St. Mary’s Axe was granted permission in 2008, although demolition of the previous property has still not begun, with architects Foggo Associates claiming developers were “waiting for the market to turn”

The nearby office blocks, One Trinity, have been cancelled altogether, in favour of the construction of a hotel.

In 2004, the Gherkin was opened with 100% of space pre-let, but by the time The Shard was completed earlier this year, not a single financial tenant had been put in place at the UKs tallest skyscraper.

Despite such gloomy indicators, the three construction projects at Heron Tower, the ‘Cheesegrater’ and ‘Walkie Talkie’ have been buoyed by positive pre-let numbers, with the confirmation of tenants now a prerequisite for the construction of new buildings.

Peter Murray, chairman of London’s Centre for the Built Environment, believes a long term outlook should give developers reasons to be optimistic.

He said: “I’ve seen four recessions during my career – and in each one I’ve heard people say, ‘Look at all this empty office space, why do we need it?’

“And after each one as the economy has improved, it has become occupied.

“In the long term I am very optimistic about the City, because the City has shown throughout history that it is able to deal with pestilence, bombing, blitzes, fires, all those things.

“It bounces back.”

 

Photo courtesy of KPF and Cityscape

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