Reaching for the Sky
Buildings like the Shard may look like heralds of the future, but they are part of a long history of idealistic urban planning, says Alexander Lee.
A construction frenzy is gripping the cities of Europe. In London buildings such as the Shard, 20 Fenchurch Street (the ‘Walkie-Talkie’) and the new Google headquarters at King’s Cross are transforming the face of Britain’s capital, defying warnings of hubris dating back to the Tower of Babel. Similarly, in Paris – the skyline of which was once thought to belong only to the Eiffel Tower – a dozen skyscrapers are planned, including the vast, cone-shaped Tour Triangle and the angular Tour Duo. Yet while high land prices and a growing population undoubtedly play their role in driving this race for the skies, the wave of new design projects sweeping across Europe is also a manifestation of a conscious effort to reshape the identity of some of the world’s great cities.