Skinny blue office block by Stiff & Trevillion set to go ahead despite opposition from heritage and Jewish bodies

The City of London is set to give the green light to a controversial 48-storey office tower planned for a site beside the Gherkin designed by Stiff & Trevillion.

The skinny 197m tower could also be neighboured by the Tulip, designed by Foster & Partners, if an appeal for that 305m tower succeeds. A decision on this is expected in the summer.

The Stiff & Trevillion scheme would replace Bury House, a seven-storey 1970s stone and glass office building at 31 Bury Street if councillors follow their planning officer’s recommendation and approve the scheme tomorrow.

The client is Bentall Green Oak and Thornton Tomasetti is structural engineer, with Arup on facades. Mace is construction consultant, RLB is QS with Hoare Lee, Sweco and Bowles Wyer also on the project team.

The proposal is for a stepped building containing 25,460sq m of offices above a ground level of retail and a community space, plus a semi-public arcade through the building and some landscaped open space. The applicant said smaller floorplates were an unmet demand in this part of the Square Mile.

The site, part of the City’s eastern cluster, is 50m from Foster’s Gherkin, just the other side of grade II*-listed glazed Holland House, a “rare and important” six-storey steel-framed commercial building designed by significant Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage in 1914.

The site is also a few metres from the grade I-listed 1701 Bevis Marks Synagogue, the UK’s oldest Jewish place of worship, whose members – and the Chief Rabbi – have complained about the loss of light the project would cause.

Historic England also objected, arguing it would affect both those buildings detrimentally and cause harm to the setting of the Tower of London world heritage site. It called for a significant reduction in the building’s height. The form of the building is stepped at 84m to pull the upper portion back slightly from some views of the White Tower.

The City’s planning officers argued the quality of the design and materials would mitigate any harm. They praised its ribbed façade of blue faience tiles which is said to draw inspiration from Holland House own glazed elevations.

In their report to tomorrow’s committee the officers wrote: “Architecturally, the proposed building would be a distinguished and sophisticated addition to the City cluster. It would have excellent sustainability credentials, be aesthetically pleasing, contextual at several scales and would enhance existing and provide new high-quality public realm appropriate to the character of the City.

“The proposed architecture distinguishes itself through the thoughtful, contextual articulation of base, middle and upper sections, delivering a coherent, well-proportioned building with a strong overall sense of architectural integrity. The modelling, detailing and materials are accomplished, resulting in architecture of the highest quality as befitting the City skyline.

“On a challenging site it works successfully at various scales and is designed to read as three elements – the ground floor public levels, a mid-section block and the slenderer pencil tower.”

Stiff & Trevillion was appointed in 2019 with a brief to redefine the office for the future and minimise embodied carbon. The applicant argued the existing building was not worth retaining as its services were nearing the end of their life.