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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday June 22 2016

I found a handy little graphic – of Big Things built and Big Things soon to be built in the “Square Mile Cluster” of the City of London – in this piece:

image

Click to get a bigger and easier-to-read version.

As you can see, the names are all very dull and stupid.  The Gherkin is called “30 St Mary Axe”, the Cheesegrater is called “122 Leadenhall Street”. The “Aviva Tower”, which will (if built) be the biggest of the lot (until a bigger one gets built), is far too big and obtrusive to go on being called the “Aviva Tower” indefinitely, by anyone except dull construction magazines terrified of their advertisers.  There is also no way that the angular pointy thing (5: “52-54 Lime Street") will remain “52-54 Lime Street”.  And I see that they even still calling Heron Tower the “Salesforce Tower”, which got squashed by public opinion ages ago.

Have these people learned nothing from the example of The Shard?  The Shard’s owners heard people calling The Shard “The Shard” as soon as they announced it, and said, okay, that’s a name we can happily live with, we’ll call it that too.  That way, there is no confusion.  Everyone, even its owners, now calls The Shard The Shard.  But refuse to bend with the linguistic breeze, and you end up with a building that you persist in pretending is called “34 Boring Street”, but which is really called The Dildo, or some such thing.

But the particular new tower which this article is about, now called “1 Leadenhall”, could quite well remain that, because it looks pretty unremarkable.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  The fundamental purpose of the City – London, actually – is to get things done, not to look pretty.

But although unremarkable to look at, “1 Leadenhall” may prove very remarkable to look from.  For here is yet another City of London Big Thing which will, assuming they mean it, have a viewing gallery at the top.  The views of nearby and bigger Big Things will, I surmise, be pretty spectacular.

I actually think that they do mean it, just as they meant it with the Walkie Talkie.  The City’s rulers seem to be making viewing galleries – free and public viewing galleries – at the top of new City Big Things a condition of planning permission.  This is, I surmise, because they want to liven up the City at the weekend, by attracting out-of-City-ers there.

The City at the weekend is now about as exciting as the inside of a coffin.  When I visited that model of the City (which at the moment is open only on Fridays and Saturdays), I stayed nearly an hour and saw only two other people there.  They want to change that.

Trouble is, one of the things that gives the City at the weekend its coffinian atmosphere is its semi-darkness, on all but the brightest days.  This is because of the Big Things of the City are not built with daylight in mind.  They are built to create as much office space as possible, and maybe look cool from a distance, and they are now starting to cluster in a solid lump.  I recently wrote about the difference between London and New York in this respect.  In New York, daylight is a very big deal, and the Big Things of New York have always had to be rather further apart than these new London Big Things.