1 Undershaft – Tallest within its Context.

The urge to stand out from the crowd, outdo the unsurpassable and to surmount the superlatives is probably as old as man’s existence. Be it the monumental pyramids of Giza or presently the world’s tallest mega-structure Burj Khalifa, these were all borne out of the humanist tendency to imagine and build something that is unprecedented and unparalleled.

Courtesy of DBOX - Eric Parry Architects

Courtesy of DBOX – Eric Parry Architects

This primeval instinct was once again stirred up by Eric Parry Architects, a London based firm that has unveiled their renders for 1 Undershaft, a 73-storey tower in the heart of London’s financial district, soon to become the second tallest building in London after an equally taller skyscraper ‘The Shard’. The proposal has been commissioned by Aroland Holdings, a major stakeholder from Singapore. Its name comes from the historic relevance of the site on which the tallest tower in the financial core would herald, where once stood the pride of the city which then was taken down and destroyed in 1547.

Courtesy of DBOX - Eric Parry Architects

Courtesy of DBOX – Eric Parry Architects

“I wanted to do something calm. It is the last piece in the jigsaw, so I wanted to do something that isn’t flamboyant.” says the architect Eric Parry, after unveiling his design, which will rise up to 309.6m. 1 Undershaft, as depicted in the renders, is a cuboidal tower which would contain over 90000 sq. m of floor space. This high-rise with its typically square footprint, would be the latest addition to the family of skyscrapers including Cheesegrater and the yet to be built 22 Bishopsgate Tower.

Courtesy of DBOX - Eric Parry Architects

Courtesy of DBOX – Eric Parry Architects

“It will be a building where the public are put first with a new public square at its base and the capital’s tallest free public viewing gallery at its top. Most skyscrapers are used Monday to Friday but 1 Undershaft will be used seven days a week, with the public able to enjoy the new public square, viewing platform and restaurant every day,” says Eric Parry. The skyscraper looks like an outstretched cuboid, strengthened by the diagonal struts visible on its surface. Moreover, the tower would  flaunt a double storeyed entrance lobby, which would also act as the highest viewing gallery in the city, open to visitors for free. The stunning 360 degree views from a space as high as this one, would be the limelight of the design, when it comes to generating footfall for the project.

Courtesy of DBOX - Eric Parry Architects

Courtesy of DBOX – Eric Parry Architects

Unlike most of the buildings in its vicinity, 1 Undershaft would also be an urban edifice which extends an open environment to the pedestrians at the ground level through a series of shopfronts and a dedicated public realm. Parry has envisaged a plaza which lays down the formal approach to the tower, surrounded with cafes and shops, helping him frame “a convivial space for meeting” precisely, as he prefers to phrase his imagination.

The architect claims his addition to the high-rise core to be the ultimate one by saying “It’s interesting being at this point in the chess game. At the higher level of buildings, this is really the endgame. I don’t think there’s more coming on this scale.” Though, what’s more interesting is the overall consolidated mass of multiple high-rises within an extremely congested patch of the city with more or less equally tall structures perceived as one entity. These skyscrapers include the Cheesegrater building designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and the forthcoming 22 Bishopsgate Tower, which might overshadow this ambitious proposal by its competent dimensions and extreme proximity.

By: Khushboo Vyas

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