Rogers is the latest architect to back the scheme. Last week DEGW joint-founder John Worthington also lent the scheme his support at the inquiry. In fact it’s hard to find anybody who opposes the tower. Southwark council gave it planning permission a year ago and architectural watchdog CABE went as far as saying that the building would become “a picture postcard image representing London.”
The one dissenting voice is that of English Heritage, which claims that important views of St Pauls from Parliament Hill and Kenwood would be lost if the tower was built. Renzo Piano himself has already dismissed these concerns at the public inquiry and called English Heritage’s method of analysing views “perverse”.
The tower’s developer, Irvine Stellar, has to convince the government inspector and deputy prime minister John Prescott of the scheme’s merits. By calling in Piano, Stellar has made a clever move. The first design by Broadway Malyan was refused planning. Now that the internationally feted Piano is on board, influential figures are falling over themselves praising the design.
Rogers is fulsome in his praise: one of his arguments is that the tower would form one of a cluster of tall buildings, which would enhance the skyline on the South Bank of the Thames. He’s certainly right in one respect: any building that overshadows the ugly wrench-like tower that houses Guy’s Hospital must be a good thing.
Whether things will look so great from the base of the tower is not as clear: the downdrafts and shadows generated by the tower would be have to be carefully dealt with by Piano and his team of designers.
If the great white shard does not get built it will probably be down to the economic situation. With the slump in the office market leaving space unlet in blue riband buildings such as the Swiss Re and Canary Wharf towers, there may not yet be the need for another skyscraper in London, however iconic.