American architecture studio, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), is set to build yet another skyscraper at 70 Gracechurch Street, London which the vertical planters which is intended as a new voice for the city’s Eastern Cluster of skyscrapers.
The cluster includes an assortment of popular towers of eccentric forms and fitting nicknames such as Foster + Partner’s 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin), RSH+P’s Leadenhall Building, Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie-Talkie), Foggo Associates’ 70 St Mary Axe (The Can of Ham) and KPF’s very own 52-54 Lime Street (The Scalpel) that was completed in May 2020.
Over four decades of practice, KPF has established recognition for designing many of the world’s tallest buildings that contribute to outlining the characters of major city skylines across the United States of America, Europe and Asia.
The firm is also known for quite a few successful restoration and renovation projects. Their particular field of expertise lies in large-scale urban mixed-use developments and office space designs.
Some latest notable projects include the CITIC Tower in Beijing, China, which is reported to be the tallest building in the city at 528 metres, the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea, which is currently the tallest building in the country and fifth tallest in the world, and the Hudson Yards in New York, USA, which is recognised for its angular platform on the 100th floor which holds the record for the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western hemisphere.
In London, KPF’s recently unveiled design for 70 Gracechurch Street comprises a trio of interconnected skyscrapers linked by stacks of vertical planters. The 154.7 metres tall complex of 33 storeys will be defined by three tapered glass towers elevated on a stepped podium, housing a range of offices, retail spaces and a viewing deck on the topmost floors.
This mixed-use development was commissioned by a Hong Kong developer named Tenacity and it was granted planning permission in early February 2021. This will be Tenacity’s second project to receive planning permission in London’s Eastern Cluster of skyscrapers, following their proposal for a 30-storey development at 55 Gracechurch Street which is only 100 metres away from the new complex.
70 Gracechurch Street will stand on the site of an old Roman Forum and adjacent to the historic Leadenhall Market. The architects at KPF intend to make use of this significant context of commerce and debate and uplift the public realm.
An innovative strategy that will use retractable vehicular lifts will be employed to make efficient use of the ground floor space. Also, elevating the office lobby to the first and second floors will ensure about 40 percent of ground floor space available to extend into the public realm.
The aim is to increase pedestrian footfall through the provision of lively and active pedestrian routes lined with flexible market spaces and pop-up stalls. The building is expected to blend seamlessly into the existing urban fabric and heighten pedestrian experience through its frontage of relatable scale at the footpath level.
The remaining floors of the building will be used as office space with an exception of levels 29 and 30 which have also been proposed for public engagement with a viewing gallery and winter garden. Offering spectacular views across London, this space will be made accessible to residents, workers and visitors at no cost at all.
Upon completion, 70 Gracechurch Street is expected to be five times more energy-efficient per square metre and consume 45 percent less energy per year than the existing ten-storey building that it will replace.
The project is set out to be one of the first office buildings in London to achieve the Outstanding BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating. KPF’s considerate design that infuses a high-efficiency façade, free evaporative cooling, natural ventilation and urban greening through living roofs will certainly contribute to accomplishing the green building sustainability rating.
These measures would benefit several purposes such as mitigating air and noise pollution, absorbing carbon, improving bio-diversity and reducing rainwater run-off. Moreover, the sustainability report that was produced along with the plans shows that materials and elements from the existing building such as the glazing, stone façade and handrails would be reused or recycled.
Both the architects and developers have proclaimed very promising outlines and visions for this upcoming project. A spokesperson for KPF explained, “the scheme creates a diverse and dynamic offer that responds to the ever-changing nature of the city but also of the workplace in a post-Covid landscape”.
Correspondingly, the founder and CEO of Tenacity, Patrick Wong announced, “70 Gracechurch Street will lead the way for a new generation of office led buildings in the City that reflect the changing needs and expectations of occupiers and visitors. Our proposals put the health and wellbeing of occupants at its heart, while also fundamentally transforming the public realm and visitor experience for city-goers of all types”.
- Pallasmaa, Juhani, The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses, John Wiley and Sons, 2012