‘Masterplan’ could reshape Blackfriars

Artist’s impression: how Blackfriars could look if proposals are approved

Two new skyscrapers are in the offing for Blackfriars despite the ongoing furore surrounding London’s skyline.

Design firms Wilkinson Eyre and Brisac Gonzalez have unveiled respective plans for 52 floors of housing and 32 storeys of offices close to Blackfriars Bridge. The towers – which if approved will stand at 178.5metres and 136m upon completion – form part of a major 18 Blackfriars Road masterplan for a site just south of the Thames.

However, with height caps and no-build zones being called for by concerned conservationists and residents alike, criticism of the designs, and London’s ever-changing skyline as a whole, has been vocal. In recent weeks, Historic Royal Palaces – the charity responsible for the upkeep of some of the UK’s most iconic landmarks – have demanded action over the threat to the Tower of London’s World Heritage status from encroaching developments in the City.

Meanwhile, the chapter of St Paul’s are protesting a development they say is obstructing the cathedral’s protected views. A key figure in the committee responsible for awarding the Gherkin at 30 St Mary’s Axe, Anthony Gormley, recently threw his weight behind pleas for a more considered approach to development, putting more pressure on developers and the local authority to consider a new process for rubberstamping proposals.

“There isn’t enough engagement with the responsibility to make really rich and supported environments, not just for the people that occupy the buildings, but for the people that walk by,” the London-based architect said when talking to Dezeen earlier this winter. He urged planners to consider the wider picture and not just treat each new tower as an individual structure on the city’s skyline. “Someone has to think about what these things do together, and hopefully have some responsible input into how that works, aesthetically but also socially.”
Proposed by Malaysian property developer Black Pearl, the 18 Blackfriars Road project is also billed to incorporate a 548-bedroom hotel and an additional residential block – the latter structure again designed by Wilkinson Eyre.