“I wanted to do something calm,” says the architect Eric Parry, who on Monday unveiled his plan for what will be the tallest building in the City of London, which will rise 309.6m in the heart of the city’s financial district, squeezed between the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin. “It is the last piece in the jigsaw,” he says of his addition to this great dinner party in the sky, “so I wanted to do something that isn’t flamboyant.”
After a decade of outlandish proposals for the City, Parry has come up with a refreshingly blunt stick of a building for the centrepiece of the district’s “cluster” of office blocks. It takes a square footprint and shoots it up 73 storeys, trussing the slender shaft up with gigantic red cross-gartered bracing. Between these will run horizontal lines of white louvres, so that when you look up from the street the soaring obelisk will appear as a solid white mass.
Parry’s plans for 1 Undershaft – which will be the same height as the Shard, that being the maximum height allowed – may come as something of a surprise, given that just a few months ago he published a book called Context in which he warned: “An orgy of tall buildings will transform and arguably overwhelm.” This flood of towers, he added, is swiftly turning the city from one with a skyline dotted with white stone buildings, to one of “green glass envelopes imported from far afield, representing the Faustian pact of national commerce and real estate”.
Today, standing in his office before a model of the design, he says: “I’ve always loved the way Portland stone buildings emerge out of what I see as the City’s deathly disease of greenish-grey glass. Our tower aims to combine the autumnal beauty of rust red with the bright white of spring.”