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Towering achievement.

Plans have been unveiled for Europe's highest building in the City of London. At a height of 385 m (1265ft), the Millennium Tower would dwarf both Canary Wharf (at a mere 244 m/ 800ft currently the highest building in Britain), and the new Commerzbank in Frankfurt (currently the highest building in Europe at 300 m/ 948 ft). From this it could be construed that the rivalry between London and Frankfurt to become the financial hub of Europe has been reduced to `mine is bigger than yours', yet both the Millennium Tower and the Commerzbank share the same architect, Foster & Partners.

Foster's proposed 92-storey Millennium Tower would occupy the site of the Baltic Exchange, which was badly damaged by a terrorist bomb in 1992. The site is notably free from the constraints which normally limit the scale of development in the City of London. It is not in a conservation area, lies outside the strategic view corridors of St Paul's Cathedral and there are no underground railway tunnels below to restrict foundation depths.

With a mixture of office space, dealing floors, flats, shops, restaurants and gardens, the building is envisaged as a vast, throbbing, self-sufficient city in the sky. A public gallery located at precisely 1000ft will provide stunning views of London and beyond. Foster's sinuous free-form plan is a riposte to the more usual orthogonality of skyscraper towers; Cesar Pelli's Canary Wharf, for example, is a singularly lumpen extrusion from a basic square plan. The curved elevations have a refinement and transparency and the bifurcated, tail fin top (memorably described in the British press as a pair of `erotic gherkins') is a spirited response to the problem of how to round off such a dominating structure. (At least Foster has had the sense to steer clear of Philip Johnson Chippendale.) The assiduous asymmetry of the form means that no view of the tower will be the same.

Although it is debateable whether London really needs the 1.5 million sq ft of office space the tower will provide, or, indeed, a piece of architecture more suited to the soar-away scale of Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong, it might just work. Londoners are still attached to their terraces and suburban villages, but exclusive high-rise apartments in places such as the Barbican and Chelsea Harbour are immensely popular and even the monumental Canary Wharf has become an accepted part of the skyline. On the cusp of the City, Millennium Tower has location, location, and location in its favour, and, housing a living and working population of around 8000, could become the London's first millennial vertical village.
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Title Annotation:Millenium Tower in London
Author:Slessor, Catherine
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Oct 1, 1996
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