Heritage advisor describes plans for City’s tallest tower as a “missed opportunity”

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Eric Parry’s new proposals for the top four floors of 1 Undershaft

Eric Parry has made a series of changes to its plans for what would become the joint tallest building in the UK following a stinging attack by Historic England.

The practice has proposed several amendments to the 74-storey 1 Undershaft scheme in the City of London including new designs for the tower’s viewing gallery and its podium level.

The building, designed for developer Stanhope, would be the tallest in the Square Mile and the pinnacle of the ‘eastern cluster’ of skyscrapers at 309m, exactly the same height as the Shard.

Formerly known as The Trellis under previous plans by Parry, which were approved in 2016, it was extensively redesigned by the practice last year and resubmitted for planning in December.

But Historic England has since ripped into the new designs, describing them as a “missed opportunity” and recommending them for refusal if they are presented to the City’s planning committee.

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Source: DBOX

How the latest proposals for 1 Undershaft would look from the south side of the river

The government heritage advisor, a statutory consultee with considerable influence over planning decisions, appeared to favour the previous consented scheme and warned the new plans would “diminish some of the City’s finest historic and modern buildings”.

Its nine-page objection letter focused almost entirely on the public realm aspect of the plans and the proposal for a large platform which would be cantilevered at a height of 46m above street level with a viewing hole in the middle.

Historic England said this feature, which would contain a public garden, would “fundamentally compromise” the character of the public square outside the existing 1960s St Helen’s tower and harm views of nearby heritage assets including Richard Rogers’ Lloyd’s Building and the medieval St Andrew Undershaft church, both of which are grade I-listed.

The letter said: “There is a good agreed solution for this site: an approved development which would create substantial new commercial floor space, an apex to the cluster and a coherent overall design, with high-quality public realm and improved sightlines to historic buildings at its base.

“The scheme now proposed for this site would, by contrast, seriously degrade the scale and character of the public realm around it, casting the street into greater shadow and encroaching on three buildings of exceptional significance.”

It added: “We consider that permitting this scheme would be a serious missed opportunity to achieve an exemplar building at the apex of the cluster, respecting the rich history of the City of London, and maintaining or enhancing the public spaces from where most people experience it.”

The comments are in marked contrast to its assessment of Parry’s previous plans for the site, which it said in October 2015 were of “very high quality and a welcome addition to the cluster”.

Parry’s proposed amendments to the current application include changing the colour of the shiny white ceramic tiles which would cover the cantilever podium garden to a warm grey.

The podium facade beneath the raised platform has also been switched to a similar shade of pale grey from the previous dark terracotta in order to contrast more with the weathered steel beams which will surround the tower at its base.

The top flour floors of the building, which would contain a viewing gallery for the Museum of London and two office levels, have also been redesigned. A brown-coloured ‘crown’ has been removed and replaced by a continuation of the tower’s facade to roof level, with the addition of red-bordered windows and some coloured panels.

The consultant team for the project includes WSP as multi-disciplinary engineer, Aecom on costs, DP9 on planning, FMDC on facades, David Bonnett Associates on accessibility, Tavernor Consultancy on townscape and Space Syntax on urban design.