Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
London: Bucking a Western Trend?

UK Trip Report: Inaugural CTBUH UK Chapter meeting and other endeavors
July 2011
by Antony Wood

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Lloyds of London: venue for the meeting

Lloyds of London is now 25 years old, but like many great works of architecture, as you cross the threshold, you feel as if you are stepping into the future rather than the past. Its stainless steel cladding, exposed services, glass elevators and rooftop cranes present a vision which sets the heart racing. Having visited the Jin Mao (Shanghai), Burj Al Arab (Dubai) and the Marriott Marquis Hotel (New York) in recent months, I was reminded that this seminal building in the City of London contains a spectacular atrium equal to the much-vaunted atriums of those buildings, with the view of London to the south (now dominated by the under-construction Shard London Bridge) as a spectacular backdrop.

One of the things that constantly amazes me in my association with the CTBUH is the great number of influential friends we have throughout the world; friends who are willing and able to open significant doors for us and create unique experiences for our members and colleagues, whether that be a tour of a significant tall building under construction or a meeting with the top people within an organization. Our friends on this occasion were new CTBUH members Paragon Insurance – in particular, Partner Nick Lewin and Senior Vice President Atha Forsberg – who had arranged for us to hold the inaugural meeting of an anticipated new CTBUH United Kingdom Chapter on the top floor conference room in Lloyds, adjacent to the famous Adam Room with its baroque interior.
Looking from Lloyds at the construction activity on 122 Leadenhall and The Pinnacle sites
As we rode up the scenic bullet lifts on the most crisp of London summer mornings, the view out over the City of London reminded us why we were holding such a meeting at this time and place; cranes signified construction work on the 122 Leadenhall “Cheesgrater” and The Pinnacle towers, with the recently-completed Heron, Broadgate, 51 Lime Street and Strata towers in the background. This is in addition to the firmly-established Swiss Re, Tower 42 and recently re-clad Stock Exchange towers that anchor the developing City of London skyline cluster. When you add into the mix advanced states of construction on the London Bridge Shard, OMA’s Rotshchild Bank Headquarters building, and construction starts expected shortly on Rafael Vinoly’s “Walkie-Talkie,” One Saint George Wharf Tower and PLP’s Heron Plaza Tower (let alone mentioning all the developments at Canary Wharf), it is not difficult to see that not only is London heating up to be a very significant tall building market, it also most certainly seems to be bucking the trend of most western cities.

Steve Watts and Antony Wood chair the inaugural UK Chapter meeting at Lloyds of London Attendees touring Lloyds after the meeting

Co-chaired by CTBUH Country Representative for the UK Steve Watts of AECOM Davis Landgon and myself, the inaugural meeting of the CTBUH UK Chapter was well-attended by about 25 UK-based colleagues from CTBUH member companies and other key tall building-connected professionals.
Special mention must be given to James Sellar of Sellar Properties (developer of the Shard of Glass tower) who was at the meeting despite his wife having given birth to twins just days before, and William Murray of Wordsearch who attended with a strapped up arm and broken collarbone sustained in a recent cycling accident! (A full list of meeting attendees is shown below.)

Current & Future Tall Buildings, London. Clockwise from left. The Pinnacle, Heron, Stock Exchange, Strata, Swiss Re, 51 Lime St, Walkie-Talkie, Tower 42.

Steve Watts welcomed everyone to the meeting and chaired the introductions, following which I presented some of the recent activities and research of the Council. There then followed an in-depth discussion on the tall buildings underway in the UK, whether there was reason and enthusiasm for establishing a new CTBUH UK Chapter and, if so, what initiatives that Chapter should focus on. Both Steve and I were very pleased to receive unanimous and enthusiastic support for the idea of a UK Chapter, and equally enthusiastic consensus that the Chapter should first focus on hosting a CTBUH London conference in 2013, by which time many of the projects listed above will either be completed or in an advanced state of construction. The meeting ended shortly before midday with a tour of the Lloyds Building by Paragon, following an agreement that a formal proposal for a new UK Chapter and 2013 Conference be put to the CTBUH Board of Trustees for approval.

The 306m London Bridge Shard under construction, as of
July 2011

Detail of the glass ‘shards’ at London Bridge Shard

The Lloyds meeting was but one of several great experiences during my few days in London. A walk through the City of London (followed by several beers) with head planner Peter Rees one evening was a definite highlight, as was lunch at the top of the Swiss Re Tower at the kind invitation of colleagues from Paragon Insurance. The recently-renovated Renaissance in the original Midland Hotel at St. Pancras train station was the setting for a meeting with colleagues from Taylor & Francis to go through final drafts of the anticipated “Tall Buildings Reference Book” (now in advanced progress), as well as to discuss terms for our “Guide to Natural Ventilation in Tall Office Buildings” (to be published in 2012; an output of the CTBUH Sustainability working group).

Antony Wood and Steve Watts presenting book to tour guide Michael Donnelly of Sellar Properties

Lunch at the top of Swiss Re, from left: Steve Watts, Antony Wood, Nick Lewin, Atha Forsberg, Simon Lay

My stay in London ended, quite fittingly, with a tour of the London Bridge Tower courtesy of Sellar Properties, together with Atha Forsberg and Steve Watts who is the cost consultant for the project. With the concrete core now topped out and with the floors and cladding following on at an impressive rate below, it was fantastic to experience what in 2012 will become the tallest building in Europe, at 306 meters. The vertical glass “fins” which project beyond the building edges are particularly impressive to view in detail, as are the “garden” rooms in each corner of the plan, which are now visible on the fully fitted-out marketing floor. As we reached the top of the building, the sun set beyond the City’s high-rise cluster, marking a fitting end to a fabulous few days in London.
CTBUH potential new UK Chapter / London conference meeting
Inaugural Meeting Attendees, Friday 22nd July 2011

Steve Watts
Peter Oborn
Ed Clark     
Jerry Sullivan
Stefano Cammelli
Doug Rabach     
Neil Squibbs       
Kevin McCauley 
Antony Wood     
Vince Ugarow    
Simon Healey    
Nick Lewin         
Atha Forsberg    
Karen Cook        
Michael Attwell   
James Sellar      
Iain MacGregor  
Barry Ostle         
Stuart Marsh      
Kent Jackson     
Lenny Alexander
Chris Wilkinson  
William Murray   
Simon Lay          

AECOM / Davis Langdon
Beazley Group
BMT Fluid Mechanics
Brookfield Developments
Buro Happold
CB Richard Ellis
CTBUH / Illinois Institute of Technology                                                  
Hilson Moran
Paragon International
Paragon International

PLP Architecture
QBE Insurance Group
 Sellar Properties
Sellar Properties
Sellar Properties
Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Thornton Tomasetti
Wilkinson Eyre
WSP Group

On behalf of the CTBUH I would like to thank Paragon Insurance (Nick Lewin and Atha Forsberg, in particular) for hosting the inaugural meeting of the CTBUH UK Chapter at Lloyds of London. I would also like to thank Nick for giving us the fantastic experience of dining at the top of the Swiss Re tower. Further thanks go to Sellar Properties (James Sellar, Flan McNamara and Michael Donnelly, in particular) for arranging the construction tour of the London Bridge Tower, and to Peter Rees for spending time guiding me around recent developments in the City, as well as reminding me of the delights of a British pub! Final thanks go to CTBUH UK Country Representative and Advisory Group member Steve Watts – and his team at AECOM Davis Langdon – for making everything happen!