London reborn – Swiss Re Building and Heron Tower
Great cities change
Any city that remains static will eventually diminish. And London is changing. The cityscape, the skyline, is changing and will change more over the coming years. Much of this is due to the development in the Bishops gate area in the heart of London’s financial district.
In an area that is roughly the same size of 30 soccer fields, several high-rises have now been built, and several more are under construction. Two of the most renowned are the Swiss Re (30 St Mary Axe), also known as the Gherkin, designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 2003, and Heron Tower, the highest building in London City, completed in 2011, and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. Both were built by Skanska. The Gherkin has 40 floors and is 180 meters high (591 feet), and the Heron Tower is a slender glass and stainless steel-clad 46-storey structure , rising to 202 meters (663 feet), or 230 meters (755 feet) including the mast.
What is so spectacular about these buildings?
For sixty years, from 1894–1954, there was a 100 feet height limit on all London buildings. This regulation was triggered by the 151 feet Queen Anne’s Mansions, an apartment house located between Victoria Street and St. James’s Park in the West End. Legend has it that Queen Victoria was irritated because the building blocked her view of Parliament from the palace. A more rational explanation is the fact that the building exceeded the height of the fire-fighting equipment used in the city. Consequently, throughout the first half of the twentieth century, London maintained its historically uniform low profile, with a skyline shaped by church steeples, the dome of St. Paul’s, and the Houses of Parliament. Meanwhile, the golden age of skyscrapers was taking place in the US. Five of New York’s ten tallest skyscrapers were built between 1930 and 1933.
Since then the regulations in London have steadily been easing up, and the possibility to build up, up and up has increased. Heron International, the renowned property investment and development company, that has constructed more than 156 buildings in nine capital cities, over 1 million square meters of commercial and retail property and around 15,000 residential units over the world, seized the opportunity.
What constitutes a skyscraper?
Definitions vary, but no official definition or height level above which a building may be classified as a skyscraper exists. However, one common feature is that skyscrapers have a steel framework structure from which walls are suspended.
Heron Towers has a load-bearing skeleton, and is constructed in such a way that it reduces the need for intrusive internal columns, allowing for flexible and expansive planning of office spaces, to maximize comfort, productivity and also energy use.
Sustainability has been built into the very DNA of the Heron Towers. Extensive use of clear glass on the building facades maximizes daylight to the office floors, reducing the need for artificial lighting. A veil of photovoltaic cells on the south elevation will generate renewable energy and help to create a solar shield. The building has also achieved a BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’.
Gerald Ronson, Chief Executive of Heron International is particularly proud of the newly completed Heron Tower.
“Heron Tower is our flagship development and the most significant project we have ever undertaken. The building took more than 12 years from conception to completion but the results speak for themselves.”
Going back to the reborn London. What will the new and eye-catching high-rises mean for London? There is no doubt in Gerald Ronson’s mind.
“Heron Tower’s completion is a significant event not just for Heron but for the City of London as a whole. Apart from being the tallest building in the City of London, Heron Tower is one of the world’s most advanced skyscrapers; the building redefines the standards for new office buildings in terms of quality, service, flexibility and environmental efficiency. New, world-class office developments play an important role in maintaining the City of London’s status as the financial capital of the world and attracting international companies to the Square Mile.”
Client: Heron International
Height: 230 m, 46 floors
Area: 40,836 sq m of office space
Environmental rating: BREEAM Excellent rating
Year of completion: 2011
Learn more at: www.skanska.com/herontower
Swiss Re Building
Client: Swiss Reinsurance
Height: 180 m, 40 floors
Area: 46,500 sq m of lettable space
Year of completion: 2003
Learn more at: www.skanska.com/swissre
The Swiss Re Building and Heron Tower in a cityscape that is constantly expanding – not least upwards. Right View from the top floor of the Swiss Re Building.