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VARIOUS TEXTS: LONDON'S SKYLINE

Nicknaming the Skyline

Take the lift to the top floor of any tall new building in London and gaze out of the window. The view is amazing. What city is this? Where are Wordsworth’s ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples? Hidden beneath an array of giant vegetables and utensils — gherkins, cheesegraters, shards, walkie-talkies and pinnacles. Here and there a hallowed silhouette pokes through — the gleaming cross atop the dome of St Paul’s, the Monument, the Old Bailey’s scales of justice. New and clean, the London skyline, like Wordsworth’s, is once again glittering in the smokeless air.

Traditionalists bemoan the new towers that twist, spire and taper to the sky. Such an upward surge, they argue, better befits the spirit of New York, Chicago or Shanghai. They are wrong. London’s new architecture has come a long way since the monolithic monotony of Centre Point. Buildings today are light, witty, elegant and varied. And the public, in a very British way, has taken the best to its heart, giving them nicknames that half mock and half celebrate their weirdness and originality. Architects may huff and puff, hankering to be immortalised in the nomenclature. Better, by far, for their buildings to be remembered with affection than by their owner’s name or a bald street number. Swiss Re take note.

We cannot be sure what we like until we see it. The Shard at present is an ugly concrete lift tower, thrusting arrogantly into the sky like Beckford’s doomed Fonthill Abbey. Those skirts of glass have so far reached only the midriff. Will the fully clothed tower enchant — or cut the skyline like angry shards? It’s no use developers pre-empting the christening with their own PR name. London will decide. And London takes its time.
Source: TimesOnline, January 4, 2011




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