London is well known for its eclectic architectural style. It is home to buildings of the Roman period, some fine Gothic-influenced edifices, Baroque architecture, and the many modernly designed buildings and skyscrapers.
Following is a descending list of the top 15 tallest buildings in London that have climbed to fame through its architecture and as important landmarks on the city’s skyline.
1. The Shard | Tallest buildings in London
This is the tallest building in London that stands at a height of 309.6 metres. Opened in the year 2012, this 95-story structure was designed by architect Renzo Piano. The building is said to follow the architectural language of Neo–Futurism evident in its construction and exterior appearance.
The Shard was inspired by the spires of Churches apparent in the historic architecture of the city and sits next to the river Thames like a sculpture rising from its waters. This edifice houses numerous 26-floored office spaces, three restaurants, a five-star hotel and UK’s famous highest viewing gallery called “The View from The Shard”.
2. One Canada Square | London Skyscrapers
This was the tallest building in London from the year 1990 until it was surpassed by The Shard in 2012. One Canada Square also claims fame by being the third tallest building in the United Kingdom.
Born out of the collaboration between Cesar Pelli, Adamson Associates, and Frederick Gibberd Coombes, this skyscraper spans a height of 235 metres and consists of 50 storeys. The Architects designed the structure in the recall of Big Ben.
The roof of the building takes a pyramidal form and is quite an important feature that measures 40 meters high with a unique aircraft warning light.
“The pyramidal form makes a three-dimensional building of what would otherwise be just folded planes. It also strengthens the Axis Mundi, the vertical line that goes through skyscrapers and connects Heaven with Earth. This connection has been recognised in many cultures for several centuries now.”—Cesar Pelli, architect (2016)
3. Heron Tower / Salesforce Tower, 110 Bishopsgate
The Heron Tower as it was previously called stands tall as the third tallest building in London with a roof height of 202 metres and a spire measuring 230 metres. Designed by architect Kohn Pedersen Fox, this structure is nestled in Bishopsgate.
Salesforce Tower finally received approval for construction in July 2002 after many public enquiries over the matter of the tower overshadowing the view of St. Paul’s Cathedral by the English Heritage Organisation.
The building saw several iterations proposed by the Heron Property Corporation which resulted in the design of the building as it stands today.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
“This is a great example of an ambitious, truly global company recognising why London is the best big city to do business. The commitment shown by Harvey Nash is a great sign of confidence in the capital and will provide a welcome boost for jobs and the wider economy. By moving to the Heron Tower they have chosen a stunning location for their new home, right in the heart of the City. – Source:
4. 122 Leadenhall Street/ Leadenhall Building
“The design of The Leadenhall Building is the result of a powerful distillation of the key components of what makes a successful office building”
-Graham Stirk, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Colloquially known as the “Cheesegrater” owing to its characteristic wedge-shaped structural appeal, the 122 Leadenhall Street or simply the “Leadenhall Building” as it is more commonly called, secures the fourth position in this list rising 225 metres above the 122 Leadenhall street in London. A brainchild of architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the structure saw its completion in the year 2014.
The architects saw to it that the building would carefully address and protect sights of the Westminster Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is visible in the distinctive tapering profile of the building. The building is home to 48 floors of efficient office spaces which constantly reduce in floor area as they reach the top.
The structural system employs shies away from the traditional central core concept and embraces innovative full perimeter braced tube which gives added stability against wind loads.
5. 25 Canada Square/ Citigroup Centre | Tallest buildings in London
The fifth tallest building in London sits in Canary Wharf with a soaring height of 201 metres. 25 Canada Square (CGC2) sits in conjunction with the 33 Canada Square building (CGC1) together constituting the Citigroup Centre and serving as the EMEA Headquarters for Citigroup. Designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates, this building was released in the year 2001.
The open floor plan of this edifice with the services situated in the central core allows for flexibility in usage of its floor space that is apt for sectors of corporate, financial, and even legal.
The structural make of this building is composite which fuses steel for the floor spanning and columns while reinforced concrete is used at the core. Each floor allows for an area of 2,635 sq. metres of occupancy all along the 45 floors of the building.
6. 8 Canada Square/ HSBC Tower
With almost reaching the 25 Canada square building’s height with 199.5 metres and located in its vicinity in Canary Wharf, it is also called as the HSBC Tower due to its serving as the Global Headquarters for the same.
“Britain’s first building to sell for more than £1bn; it was finished in 2002 and then cost £500m. It houses 8,000 staff on 45 floors. The building was sold on Monday to Spain’s Metrovacesca in what was the UK’s largest single property sale.”
Designed by the famous Foster + Partners, 25 Canada Square stood as the second tallest building in the United Kingdom when it was completed. The building boasts a sustainability rating of BREEAM-Excellent, enhanced by one of the many features like a dedicated Jubilee Line Underground station encouraging public transit.
7. The Scalpel/ 52 Lime Street | London Skyscrapers
Lay in the centre of London’s financial district is this 190m tall building, called so due to its unique form. Architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates steered this structure into realisation in the year 2018. 52-54 Lime Street is where one would find this building nestled.
This structure likewise to the Leadenhall building was built with due consideration to the many important views of the city, whilst complementing the existing skyline. Cloaked in high-performance reflective glass, the varying floor plates allow for the much-needed flexibility of office spaces.
Tower 42 or the National Westminster Tower as it was previously called due to its then dedicated tenant of National Westminster Bank, rises to a height of 182 metres which is spread over 42 floors. The building includes 6 independent structures sharing a plot of 2.2 acres, with an area of 5,00,000 sq. ft. where Tower 42 alone submits 3,24,000 sq. ft. of compliant office spaces.
Distributed across 3 leaves of spaces namely A, B, and C, tenants have the option of choosing even the splendid views of what each one of these offers. Conceived by architects R Seifert & Partners, the building saw its completion in the year 1980. The building was acclaimed to be the tallest in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1991.
9. St George Wharf Tower, Vauxhall Tower
Vauxhall Tower or St George Wharf Tower, called so due to its being in the St George Wharf riverside development is the tallest exclusively residential building in London. Offering 223 luxury apartments up until 181 metres above the London soil, this structure had its finishing touches put on the year of 2014.
The project is a creation of the worldwide established architectural firm Broadway Malyan. The unique circular plan, subtly resembling a ratchet, provides five condos per floor with a wall emerging from the central core to separate them. Fully enveloped by glass from the ceiling to floor, the building takes providing excellent views of the London skyline, seriously. Although it seems otherwise from first looks, the building is environmentally responsible, one exemplary characteristic being the wind turbine in the topmost floor powering the lighting in common areas.
10. 30 St. Mary Axe | Tallest buildings in London
One of the most iconic buildings in London is undoubtedly the 30 St. Mary Axe or as it is informally called The Gherkin. It is the second building designed by Foster+Partners to make it to this list so far. The building is cloaked with full glazing in a double skin fashion, providing scenic, all-around views of the city’s skyline.
“Whether you like or loathe tall buildings, the Gherkin is a supremely skilful addition to London’s skyline. Walk along the South Bank of the Thames from the Design Museum to the Royal Festival Hall or drive into the City along Mile End Road, particularly at night, and the Gherkin’s curving form constantly entertains and enlivens.”
-The Daily Telegraph
With 64,469 sq. metres of floor area to offer, the building serves to provide opportunities for offices, cafes, shops and even a clubhouse at the very top of this 180 metres long structure. The structural make is so designed to lessen the effects of wind loads and creates precise pressure to enrich natural ventilation.
11. 100 Bishopsgate | Tallest buildings in London
Borrowing a bit of the history of the London Wall, the building derives its name from one of the primitive eight gates in the historic London Wall. Sitting in the cluster of London’s most known landmarks of historic significance and skyscrapers, the challenge was to create an edifice which would serve to be a perfect fit within the Financial District. Architect Graham Morrison from the firm Allies and Morrison envisioned the building to respond to its site and provide a public realm at the ground level by being transparent.
With a base in the figure of a parallelogram, the building rises to 172 metres to terminate as a rectangle in plan. The architect inspired by the site conditions conceived the form of the building with a twisting façade dynamic study. Users are welcomed into the building with the open and generous ground floor reception spaces fully clad in carefully selected Lasa white marble. The building provides 9,95,000 sq. ft. of tenantable space ideal for offices and is thoroughly glazed delivering outstanding views of the City.
12. One Blackfriars | London Skyscrapers
In the London Borough of Southwark in the City of London, rises a residential tower 170 metres tall that faintly resembles a Boomerang, the very informal name it is referred to by. Sitting on a site that houses a vibrant public plaza, the building is complemented by two more structures that share the same site, namely the Podium and the Bankside Hotel. The Podium is home to restaurants and shops whilst it also aids time-out to the residents in the form of spas, gymnasium, swimming pools and cinema spaces.
Fathered by the architectural practice Simpsonhaugh, the project was realised in the year 2019. To create a feeling of directness with the outside, floor to ceiling glazing is provided that also serves the purpose of providing ample views of the district.
The distinctive form of the tower stems from the presence of the double-skin glass façade. The inner skin of the façade provides impressive outlooks of the building and uses earthly shades near the base and rises to the crown in a silver hue. Meanwhile, the outer skin is made out of 5,476 bent glass panels to provide a dynamic, curved appearance.
13. Principal Tower
Spawned out of a solid collaboration between Brookfield properties, Concord London and the world-renowned Architects Foster+Partners, this 163 metres tall residential Tower was accomplished in the year 2019. Nestled in Shoreditch, near the border of the City of London, the building is intended to bring about an urban atmosphere in this derelict part of the City.
During the whole design process, the Architects prioritised the importance of Connections. From the way the building would respond to Shoreditch, civic environment happening at its grounding, the response of the residents/ occupiers to the life in the surrounding, to the way the building responds to light and shadow, were all looked at carefully.
The tower is a part of a larger scheme which is a mixed-use development. Here lie the Principal Tower and the Principal Place- which is a 15-storey office building, also designed by the same architects, complementing the Tower in its architectural language and use of material. The Plaza where this sits is thoughtfully designed from the stepped courts to the landscaped spaces supplementing the scope of the Principal Place with its many eateries in creating a bustling community space.
A typical floor plate in the Principal Tower consists of eight apartments and amongst the variety of apartments, one can choose from, almost all of them enjoy the curved balcony which from the exterior gives a curved profile to the building softening its profile. The architects were also involved in the design of the interiors where a cautiously structured colour palette worked to include light and dark schemes.
14. The Broadgate Tower
Accompanied by the 201 Bishopsgate building with which the building sits creating an interesting dialogue, the duo is built right above the rail tracks that are a part of the Liverpool Street Station. The 33-storied Tower, standing 161 metres above the Broadgate Business district in the City of London, saw its dawn in the year of 2013.
Designed by architects Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, one of the key features of the Tower include the double-deck elevators that increase the passenger capacity, cores located at the boundary rather than the traditional central-core system which hence gives more open and fuller floor plates for its tenants.
The many resulting aspects of the building were due to a major constraint of the raft foundation system of the site. As the two buildings lie directly above the active rail lines and also because the foundation was designed much earlier to suit a 13-storey building, intense innovation was required. This resulted in the need for an advance structural system visible in the Stainless Steel A-Frame in the Pedestrian Galleria and a reduction is the sizeable area of the floor plates which called for multiple lobbies spread over five floors and a smaller core served by the double-deck elevator.
15. 20 Fenchurch Street | Tallest buildings in London
“20 Fenchurch Street departs from conventional architectural expression, this innovative project combines public and private spaces, offering stunning views of London and a new landmark for the capital.”
20 Fenchurch Street sits in an outstanding location in the City of London, nobly away from the Tower assemblage and forms an intimate connection with River Thames. Designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, the building boasts of a BREEAM Excellent sustainability rating.
Unlike traditional skyscrapers, this 32-storied edifice sees an increase in its floor plates as it rises to the crown. The distinct profile of the building resembling a ‘walkie-talkie’ famously earned it the same informal name. The building provides ample space for highest quality office spaces, a duplex ground floor lobby and the famous sky garden as mentioned above.