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.

The Shard in London, under construction in 2010A 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.

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