The Bishopsgate Tower is a development that goes by many names; you may know it as The DIFA Tower, The Pinnacle, The Curly Wurly or The Helter-Skelter, but The Bishopsgate Tower is set to become one of the biggest talking points in London when it reaches completion stage in late 2012. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, one of the world’s largest architectural firms and designers of the Heron Tower, it is currently competing with Shard London Bridge to be Britain’s tallest building. Should The Bishopsgate Tower be completed before The Shard, it will briefly hold this title due to its 63 storeys spread over 288 metres. It does, however, boast a higher occupiable floor level than the Shard.
The Bishopsgate Tower owes its name to its location at 22-24 Bishopsgate within London’s main financial district. Originally the project was given to Murphy/Jahn Architects, but when they left the project due to dissatisfaction at how the development was progressing, Kohn Pedersen Fox were drafted in to complete the design. At the same time, the proposed site was shifted from the original 6 – 8 Bishopsgate to the present location after English Heritage raised concerns over the impact of the Tower on the view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the direction of Fleet Street.
The Bishopsgate Tower is certainly not a conventional skyscraper tower in design. It draws on organic curves and swirls such as seashells, armadillos and mushrooms, producing a flowing, twisting curve to the project that is nothing like any other building on the London skyline. Clad in uniform glass panels that are overlaid to look like fish scales or snakeskin, the building also has a purple tinted effect within its spiral to contrast with the blues, whites and greys reflected from the sky within the glazing.
The original design for the Tower put its height at 307 metres, but following concerns from the Civil Aviation Authority in relation to the flight path from London City Airport, the design was scaled back to the current height.
The Bishopsgate Tower is primarily an office building, with 88,000 square metres of office space available once completed. Each floor can be split in order to house two tenants, and all floors can cater for either open-plan or cellular office designs. However, the Tower’s first three storeys remain open to the public as commercial space, and there is also a sky lobby and restaurant on the top floors of the development, producing the highest viewing deck in the UK, and the fourth highest in Europe.
The Tower’s real innovation and accomplishment, however, is its eco-awareness and sustainability, with Lee Polisano, the President of Kohn Pedersen Fox announcing that “Environmentally, Bishopsgate Tower will be an exemplary building with investment in energy efficient measures designed to minimize the carbon footprint of the building”. The development features high performance triple-glazing and both natural and mechanical ventilation in order to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, with a double-layered skin containing shaft ventilation (much like 30 St Mary Axe) that pulls warm air out of the building during the summer and warms the building in the winter using passive solar heating. This allows a dynamic response to climate changes and produces effective climate control with low energy consumption. It has biomass heating and ground water heat exchangers, and 90,000 photovoltaic cells will be installed within the Tower’s facade to provide up to 200 kilowatts of energy – more solar panelling than any other building in the UK. Even the impressive external glazing is as well as aesthetic, designed to lessen occupants’ reliance on electric lights by making the most of the available sunlight.
Tom Dyckhoff, Architecture Critic for The Times and The Guardian, may have commented that the building is “infinitely ugly” and “the equivalent of turning up at the boardroom with a gold lamé suit and platform soles”, but overall responses to the Bishopsgate Tower have been extremely positive, both for its aesthetic and environmental merits. The City Planning Officer for the Corporation of London stated that “We want outstanding architecture. DIFA [The Bishopsgate Tower] is a good example of these outstanding pieces of modern architecture that are being constructed in the city”. The Bishopsgate Tower may be unconventional in its design, but with its eco-ethics and beautiful curves it is set to grace London’s skyline once it is completed in 2012 – and maybe inspire a few architects to challenge the idea that a skyscraper should be a boxy tower.