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What is it with Londoners and tall buildings? The history of 1960s council block failures, underwritten by social problems, faulty lifts and dank staircases? Our otherwise low-rise historic environment? Or is it a deep distrust of foreign investors parking their money in luxury housing they will never inhabit? Whatever the reason, tall buildings make for an emotive subject that has caught the imagination of the public and design fraternity alike, especially vividly since last NLQ and the launch of NLA’s blockbuster exhibition on the subject. So it’s only natural that this issue reaches for the sky to explore that phenomenon further.

In addition to the Tall Buildings Special in which we cover some of the many events that have spearheaded this programme, looking abroad as well as at home for lessons and paths forward, we interview one of the main image-makers in this arena, Hayes Davidson, for its take on all things view corridor and cluster. We journey south to look at a zone where tall buildings are considered appropriate and will be a likely addition to a place now being catalysed largely through Westfield and Hammerson’s decision to invest in the Whitgift Centre – Croydon.

Our New Londoner Jo Negrini, fresh from her spell at Newham, explains how her Olympic-like vision will translate to a place which has seen so many false dawns in the past. The Leadenhall Tower has been received as a beacon of high quality among a sea of inferior schemes, and we talk to its architect Graham Stirk about his role in a practice that is working at the top of its game – Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Still in the City, another trio – this time headed by Sir Nicholas Kenyon – are seeking to make the most of Crossrail and the cultural elements around the Barbican, itself another of the key tall buildings to have successfully negotiated the 70s, concrete and high design ideals.

Elsewhere in the magazine we look at public art as it has been used to good effect by The Crown Estate, and, in a new feature we’re calling Project Preview we take an extended look at an interesting project that is set to rework an important 60s estate – the Aylesbury, by HTA. Our building review this issue looks at another reworking – this time of the former home of the BBC’s World Service and John Robertson Architects’ Aldwych Quarter scheme. And there is the usual mix of capital ideas, opinion pieces and market summaries besides.

Ultimately, with over 230 tall buildings set to come to London’s skyline, there is a sense in which the horse has already bolted. But that’s not to say that that those horses can’t be as well-groomed, fit-for-purpose, and popular as possible. The debate will continue.

Enjoy the issue.

David Taylor, Editor
Highlights

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Soundbites

Selected quotes and facts pulled together from NLA events over the last quarter

New Londoner

Planning chief Jo Negrini sets out her ‘Olympian’ plans for Croydon. By David Taylor
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Spotlight on ...

Barbican boss Sir Nicholas Kenyon outlines his cultural quarter plans for the City to Peter Murray

Hitting the heights

Tall Buildings Special: our coverage of all the main events in a season of skyscrapers and surveys
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Feature

Virtual reality – Q&A with visualisation specialists Hayes Davidson’s founder Alan Davidson

Top of their game

Graham Stirk tells David Taylor what makes Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners tick
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Project preview

New feature on significant unbuilt projects begins with HTA on the Aylesbury Estate

The directory

Our guide to the companies and properties in London, complete with agents’ views on specific areas
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