Building site lines

Ask Londoners what their favourite building would be and they’ll probably say St. Paul’s Cathedral. With this in mind the capital’s favourite has been protected by a series of sightlines for decades.

During its construction I watched a television programme about the design of the Leadenhall Building, or Cheesegrater to you and me, and was impressed by architect’s consideration in saving the silhouette of St. Paul’s.

[W]hen viewed from Fleet Street his building’s distinctive slanted shape didn’t impinge on St. Paul’s, I was left with the impression that the decision had been voluntary, preserving London from becoming a copy of downtown Dubai. [Below St. Paul’s from Fleet Street before and after]



It took the excellent American website devoted to lovers of London – Londontopia – to point me in the direction of a short video about the statutory requirement planners have to adhere to when designing London’s buildings.

The New London Model now on display at the Building Centre with touch screens allowing buildings and major infrastructure projects to be brought to life across the surface of the model shows the key areas of change and revealing the sheer scale of proposed development in the capital.

It hopes to explain how the capital’s building regulations have prevented the visual clutter obscuring or degrading the view of St. Paul’s from well-known landmarks around London. Unfortunately these fine ideals called the Abercrombie Plan which featured in Andrew Marr’s BBC documentary Britain from Above have been watered down to the point of no return.

As each world-famous architect strives to put a permanent marker as his legacy on the capital the visual importance of St. Paul’s, and to a lesser extent the Houses of Parliament, is diminished.

When the Abercrombie Plan was first mooted London was being re-built after the Blitz. No one could have imagined today’s brilliant engineering which has made it possible to build these astonishing structures. Unfortunately London’s skyline has not benefitted.

Photo: By .Martin. Inside the New London Architecture, The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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