Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Heron Tower, London
Posted April 2012
Heron Tower was recognized as a finalist in the 2011 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings
“Heron Tower brings a touch of Manhattan to the London skyline. Its variegated façades are carefully designed to suit their orientation.”
Peter Murray, CTBUH 2011 Awards Juror, New London Architecture Centre

230 m (755 ft)
Primary Use

Heron International PLC
Heron International PLC
Design Architect
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Structural Engineer
Foreman Roberts
Project Manager
Mace Ltd
Skanska AS
Other Consultants
Permasteelisa Group

As with any significant tall building project in the City of London, Heron Tower overcame many obstacles on its way to realization. Ten years in the making, the project finds itself well fit into its urban landscape and brings new vitality to the city. It is sophisticated in its form and use of materials. The use of three-story “villages” (beautifully expressed on the façade) centered around atriums breaks up the isolated stratification of individual floors common in tall office buildings, to bring an inter-floor engagement and interaction.

The design of the tower provides highly flexible work-spaces which support diverse tenant needs.  A series of nine three-story “villages” and one six-story “village”—with a full-height atrium at the heart of each—create independent spaces and provide high levels of visual connectivity while maximizing daylight deep into the building adding human scale and a sense of community.
Figure 1. Three story "village" atrium
Responding to its urban context, the redevelopment of the Heron Tower site also incorporates significant improvement to circulation and access around its base. On a busy traffic corner, with narrow pavements, the public realm has been enhanced by opening up a pedestrian section to the north, along Houndsditch, animating the space with planting and cafés.

Similarly an arcade along Bishopsgate has been created to provide a generous footpath to the busy street and address the Grade II listed St. Botolph’s church opposite. An extension to the public realm is also incorporated at roof-level with dining terraces associated with the public restaurant and bar providing views across London.

Optimizing the core of the building off-set to the south enabled the design of large, open, flexible office spaces, which form the 10 “villages.”  Each of the villages is environmentally independent, with its own mechanical and electrical systems, life safety systems and controls so that each can be tuned to exactly the comfort patterns and values of its occupants.

In addition the design of the building’s services systems incorporates features that ensure that energy is used efficiently with heat recovery, high efficiency plant and low-energy cooling systems, bringing energy savings, cost benefits and allowing the refit of new technologies in the future.

Figure 2. Section Perspective
 These villages are structurally expressed on the northern face by the stainless steel cross-bracing and articulated to the east and west, animating the façade. The orientation of the building informed the design of the façades. To the east and west the highly transparent, ventilated façade creates a bio-climatic, energy-efficient enclosure with automatic integral blinds controlling the direct long angle sun.

On the south elevation the core serves to protect the building from excessive heat gain and incorporates a photovoltaic array—laminated units on the vertical façade of the scenic passenger lifts and plant areas. This array, covering 3,374 sq m (36,317 sq ft), is the second largest PV array in the United Kingdom and ultimately results in a 2.2% reduction in carbon emissions for the whole building.

The core, positioned to the edge of the building, houses 10 main glazed lifts and two shuttle lifts to the roof level public restaurant and bar.

In order to service the relatively large number of small floors efficiently, the building’s elevators incorporate double-deck panoramic high speed lifts with bespoke hall-call destination control software.

Figure 3. Façade detail

The entrance lobby is defined by a dramatic 12 meter (39 foot) long tropical fish aquarium, the largest privately owned aquarium in Europe. It contains 1,200 fish of 67 different species ranging from Green Chromis [60 mm (2.3 in) when fully grown] to Bamboo Sharks [which grow to a maximum of 1200 mm (47 in)].

The durability and solidity of Heron Tower is enhanced by the use of materials; combining stainless steel “linen” finish cladding with neutral/clear glazing. This is translated at street level with a set-back, covered, three-story arcade on Bishopsgate and full-height glazing connecting the street to the building. The mass of the building is also stepped back at the upper levels—at restaurant and bar—cut back in three-story steps up to the highest point at the south west corner, topped by a 28 meter (92 foot) stainless steel mast.

Figure 4. Heron Tower in London skyline

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
Heron Tower

Heron Tower was recognized as a Best Tall Building Finalist in the 2011 CTBUH Awards Program.
Download the Heron Tower 2011 CTBUH Awards Book section

2011 CTBUH Awards Book

The CTBUH would like to thank Kohn Pederson Fox for their assistance with this article. Photography © Kohn Pederson Fox.