London skyline

The Jubilee river pageant threw a spotlight on the river skyline of London that has been changed, almost beyond recognition in some places, over the last twenty years - unfortunately not always for the better. A particularly egregious stretch is the Vauxhall bend which is now clearly visible from the Albert Bridge in Chelsea. Berkeley Homes have built some real clunkers on the south bank already but even these look like being overshadowed by a tower that looms ill if it is up to their previous standards

We are very careless with these vast residential blocks; careless because they are going to be there forever - in lifetime terms anyway. This is not the case with commercial buildings which thankfully have a finite life as new technology comes into play and old building materials crack and rot. Most of the commercial buildings of the 1960s have met the wreckers ball with no tear in anyone's eye. With the exception of some of the worst of the council tower blocks, nearly all of the residential is still with us because it is owned by individuals - and they never get together to knock down and rebuild. What you see now is there for good - which is why the row over the Chelsea Barracks site was an important one.

Unfortunately, the Vauxhall bend has no powerful cheerleaders as what was there before was either non-existent or so dreary that anything that replaced it attracted no attention. It has happened by default and at the hands of a developer that is operating in the middle market in every sense of the phrase.

The Shard is at the other end of the scale. Imaginative and, to my mind beautiful in the way it counterpoints the City skyline. But one has to be afraid when you look at the history of the world's tallest buildings and what happened to their cities just after they were built. Think of Dubai for a start.

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