Towers of London
The collection of buildings that make up Guildhall could hardly be more eclectic. The Festival of Britain inspired Members’ Club by Sir Richard Gilbert Scott. The (rare) pseudo gothic Art Gallery also by Sir Richard. The medieval Great Hall with George Dance the Younger’s (rarer) Moghul gothic entrance. Sir Christopher Wren’s baroque St Lawrence Jury Church. The Private Dining Room of the Members’ Club has great views of these low rise buildings against a backdrop of skyscrapers.
Guildhall is his office and – it transpires – his midweek home. Chris Hayward, Chairman of the Planning and Transportation Committee of the City of London as of 2016 is clearly a busy man. There are more cranes piercing the horizon of the City now than in the 1980s. When the Elizabeth Line opens there’ll be more people, more pressure, more planning applications. “There’s nowhere like this in the world,” he believes. “The City is a major financial centre with medieval streets. It’s the powerhouse of Britain, the heart of economic growth, whatever they say in elections. Do you want to live in Frankfurt? I don’t!”
Chris refers to an extension of the ‘Eastern Cluster’ as the only part of the City suitable for more tall buildings, in order to preserve heritage elsewhere. “We could fill in the gap between the Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater. The skyline works. In the Square Mile we can only go up, not out. I’m a strong advocate of clustering.” He acknowledges others’ mistakes of the recent past. “I want the new generation of tall buildings to be more outward looking, more approachable. For example, the ground floor of the Leadenhall Building is very permeable. They should also have world class public spaces in between. I don’t want the City to be the new Manhattan: too many skyscrapers in Manhattan interact poorly at ground level.”
Contrary to most media missives, London’s skyline isn’t changing in a haphazard way. The City has developed a complex viewing model and is undertaking world class wind modelling work. The future isn’t only about offices scraping the sky. “There’s a forgotten area of the City along the riverfront near the Tower of London,” he explains. “It’s pretty awful but I have a vision of an amazing mixed use scheme of tallish – not ultra tall – buildings. It would need a change of planning policy to allow for residential use. I’ve asked my officers to look at it. Hot off the press! That’s your scoop!” Chris is also keen to see retail planning applications coming forward as well. Rumour has it that Selfridges and Harvey Nics would jump at the chance of opening in the City.