Client chose to build low out of respect to historic context

Michael Bloomberg has admitted he decided against a high-rise building for his firm’s new £1bn European headquarters in the Square Mile because he didn’t want it looking out of place with its neighbours.

The media giant’s founder, who now lives in Chelsea, said the Sir Robert McAlpine-built 10-storey scheme at Bank, about the same height as James Stirling’s No1 Poultry which it faces across Queen Victoria Street, could have been 22 storeys.

But Bloomberg, who is a previous mayor of New York and whose fortune is estimated at $53bn, making him the tenth richest person in the world, said he asked architect Foster & Partners to design something less than half that height out of deference to his adopted city.

He said: “I wanted something that respected London’s aesthetic and tradition and gave something back to the city.”

Planning rules place the site, which is next to the Bank conservation area, between protected St Paul’s viewing corridors. This means City of London planners would have approved a building of up to 22 storeys.

The site had been earmarked for a much taller scheme by Fosters and French architect Jean Nouvel. Walbrook Square. Nicknamed Darth Vader’s Helmet (pictured), the £600 million glass office block for Legal & General would have been 22 storeys but it fell victim to the global financial crisis

The site is next to another 10-storey Fosters office project, the Walbrook Building on Cannon Street, which was completed in 2010 by Skanska. It is named after the stream which runs under that area of the city.