Legislation is no answer to a city that expresses its vigour and confidence by rising into the clouds
Friday 17 January 1997
English Heritage is pushing ahead, and pushing its luck, with a report that it hopes will be enshrined in legislation calling for a legally enforced height limit of 100m (327ft) on new buildings in London. The limit is not retrospective, otherwise St Paul's Cathedral would be way over the limit. As this great civic temple occupies a considerable acreage of lucrative office space, there are many money-changers who would not be sorry to see it go the way of Babel.
Healthy cities grow and change. London is not the city it was even 15 years ago and has changed radically in the course of this century. For better in some minds; for worse in others. Your view of it if you are a Londoner will depend very much on whether you were brought up in the stucco streets of Kensington or the stock-brick slums of Whitechapel. If the former, then change is disagreeable: we have everything we need already. If the latter, then London is an infinitely better, and better looking, city than it was 40 or 50 years ago.
It is easy to be romantic about big cities and to believe they enjoyed some golden age. Nostalgics believe the era they were just too young to enjoy was somehow better than the one they live in. We all suffer from nostalgia to a degree and we are all sometimes right and sometimes wrong. Sixty years ago newspaper columns were concerned with the rise of the 100ft building in London. These high-rise horrors were surely at least 20ft too tall. Sweeping legislation is no answer to a city that expresses its vigour and confidence by rising into the clouds. Rather than allowing puritanical zeal to cut the city down to fit some historical ideal, each new building should be considered on its merit. Sometimes a 1,000ft building will be right; at other times, a building might be best constructed underground, or not at all.
Most of the truly horrid buildings in London are only one or two storeys high and though the zealots who run English Heritage might try - they would have to try very hard - to look down on them, there are many people who delight in living high above the street with inspiring vistas of the city below and beyond them. The view from Fortress House, grim headquarters of English Heritage, is, verily, a mean onen
auctionThe first 23 lots have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
healthJames Bond's alcohol consumption puts him at 'high risk' of cirrhosis, tremors... and impotence
musicPolice chief rejects rappers' claims that his work is as dangerous as law enforcement or military service
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
tvSpoiler alert: Find out the result of a heated final show
Beatles rush out 'bootleg' album to defy EU copyright law
Harvey Weinstein reveals his secret weapon on-set
Now that an oil trader's drinking has got him sacked, will we all have to make do with an afternoon latte?
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba get nods for Best Actor, which no black Brit has ever won
Geoffrey Macnab reviews The Desolation of Smaug - the meat in Peter Jackson's Hobbit sandwich
peopleWhat advice would David Cameron give to his younger self?
Arts & Ents blogs
Not all right on the night
MasterChef 2013: Steven Edwards, Adam Handling and Scott Davies are the final professionals
Steven Edwards crowned winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2013
Paul Walker: Fast & Furious 7 writers working on exit story for Brian O'Conner
Kanye West is as 'misguided as they come': Ohio police chief rejects rappers' claims that his work is as dangerous as law enforcement or military service
- 1 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 4 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- 5 Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
- < Previous
- Next >