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London Skyline: The Buildings You Need to Know

20.05.2022 | 15 min read

Have you ever seen the London Skyline? Each building has a unique shape to stand out from the rest and given interesting names to fit to the building’s individual personality. A modern panoramic view that is still growing with over 130 currently in construction; these are the best buildings behind the London Skyline.

Photos of Waterfront During Daybreak

The Cheesegrater

Leadenhall Building or more famously known as the Cheesegrater is a 225-metre and 48-storey skyscraper. It got its name from the wedge shape that very much resembles what most of us have in our kitchen to grate our parmesan. Rogers Stirk + Partners designed the building which was completed in 2014. Arup engineered a steel “Megaframe”. This provides stability to the structure. A concrete core would typically be used for tall buildings.

Leadenhall Building

Image source: Diego Delso

The Walkie-Talkie

Now for another commercial building with an intriguing name: The Walkie-Talkie (or officially 20 Fenchurch Street). The structure’s unique shape resembles a radio headset. The 2014-completed 160-metre-tall building was originally planned to be as tall as 220 metres. This could have affected the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral and had to be reduced in height. That contributed to the “stumpy” look of the building. The Walkie-Talkie was famously known for melting parts of a car in 2013. This was due to the scorching heat the building reflected and left heat damage on a Jaguar. The owner of that car may not be the biggest fan of the building, but others still admire its sky gardens.

BT Tower

The British Telecom Tower or (BT Tower) is 189 metres tall. The General Post Office commissioned the building. Eric Bedford and G.R. Yeats – architects of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, designed the tower. The shape and structure of the tower were all chosen due to the requirements of the communication aerials. Her Majesty the Queen visited the tower just 2 days before it was opened to the public in May 1966. Today, the BT Tower is still the site of a major UK communications hub.

BT Tower London

The Battersea Power Station

The Battersea Power Station in the London Borough of Wandsworth is one of the largest brick buildings in the world. It was built by the London Power Company. The building involves essentially two power stations, each built at different stages (Battersea A Power Station and Battersea B Power Station). The two power stations contribute to the iconic four-chimney structure. The interior designs of the stations are noteworthy for their interior designs and décor.

Abandonded Battersea power station in London

Image source: Londontopia

Oxo Tower

With a long history and several changes to its previously power station site, the Oxo Tower on the south bank of the River Thames, today is multi-functional, offering different amenities and spaces on each level. Its recognizable tower prints the name of the tower vertically on windows. Although the building was frequently in danger of being demolished, the Vestey food group saved it. They purchased it in the 1970s, allowing them to add a series of windows to the design (which has been denied before).

View of the OXO building from the river


The O2 entertainment district offers a lot of different spaces and amenities to switch to a world where entertainment comes first. Previously the Millennium Dome, the structure was repurposed in 2007. It has since become a great success. O2 houses a music club, cinema, bars, restaurants, piazzas, an exhibition space, and an indoor arena. Recently, the O2 opened a premium retail outlet in place of the original plan of opening a super casino.

O2 entertainment district London

Image source: “Autumn Sunset over the O2” by Jiv.Talking is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

One Canada Square

Completed in 1991, the famous One Canada Square stood strong as the tallest building in the UK for a while, but today stands at lucky place number 3. Plans for the building were initially to be even taller. 5-storeys had to be removed to comply with air traffic safety regulations, but still has 50 floors to this day. It was criticized for its quite “boring” or “basic” design. The tower is now very well known in the media and has become a “national recognized landmark”.

One Canada Square London

Salesforce Tower

The 110 Bishopsgate Salesforce Tower is a 230-metres-tall commercial building. It is the second tallest in the City of London’s financial district. It is still known as the Heron Tower as it is owned by Heron International and was renamed its current name after countless disputes involving tenant Salesforce. The building is completely let and has some very attractive features. One is the 70,000-litre aquarium in the reception area. A restaurant and sky bar on high floors (40), are public and offer a fantastic view from the terraces.

Heron Tower

Image source: It’s No Game via Wikimedia Commons

Broadgate Tower and 201 Bishopsgate

These two buildings are connected by a covered sky-lit retail passageway with cafes. The two buildings are distinguished by the glass faҫades and structural A-frames of the Broadgate Tower, and the more fluid shape of 201 Bishopsgate. The structure is used as an office and retail space, and a public realm. Both buildings showcase sustainability features such as dimming lights that respond to daylight levels, and heat-recovery systems.

Broadgate and 201 Bishopsgate Tower

Image source: David Samuel, Hellodavey1902, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

100 Bishopsgate

For another 2-in-1 structure, 100 Bishopsgate is just that. A 40-storey tower on one side and a smaller seven-storey structure on the other are connected by a walk-through reception. The tall tower is unique of its kind due to the parallelogram shape of the first five floors. This transitions into a classic rectangular-shaped tower. The building is neighboured by many other great buildings mentioned in this article, such as The Gherkin. However, you wouldn’t overlook 100 Bishopsgate because of the 100 carved into the building.

100 bishopsgate

Image source: Back_ache, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Moor House

The 19-storey glass-clad Moor House building was completed in 2005 and acts as a bridge between two distinct parts of the City of London. Like most renowned buildings in the area, Moor House is primarily an office building and retail space. The lower floor levels are open to shops, restaurants, and bars, as the building is home to a busy street. Although it is not the tallest building in the London Skyline, its slightly rounded shape at the top gives the building a unique look. The height is an ideal fit for the ‘human scale’ of its environment.

Moor House in London

Image source: David Samuel, Hellodavey1902, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St. George Wharf Tower

St. George Wharf Tower is the tallest residential building in the UK at 180-metres high and 52-floor levels. It is modelled as a Catherine wheel averaging five apartments per floor. The lower floors have communal facilities such as a gym, swimming pool, business lounge and more benefits for the tenants. The tower’s common lighting is powered by a wind turbine manufactured by Matilda’s Planet. A full 360-degree view of the city on the top floors is another very attractive feature.

view of the st. george wharf tower

Image source: Jim Linwood, St George Wharf Tower – London

Have the 12 buildings mentioned so far sparked your interest? Let’s have an even closer look at five structures that stand out in particular:

The Gherkin

AKA 30. St. Mary Axe – is very fitting to its name. The Gherkin was given due to its vegetable-like design. The glass-fronted, 180-metre-tall tower is recognized as one o the city’s most recognizable pieces of architecture. British architect Sir Norman Foster was behind the sustainable and visually appealing design. Since 2004, The Gherkin has been home to offices and a public cocktail bar and restaurant in London’s financial district.

Before The Gherkin, the general London public were not the greatest fans of tall buildings. It’s taken a turn and is now ranked the second tallest building in London. It has become a building the city came to admire. To accommodate pedestrians and space, the building is slim towards the bottom, for maximum space for activity on street level.

Sustainability comes into play through the ventilation strategy that maintains thermal comfort inside the building during both the summer and winter. Passive solar heating and natural cooling is made possible due to the six shafts spiralling up the building that form into break out spaces. The glazing faҫade provides lighting in reaction to the column-free floor space. Today, the building is still standing tall and is easy to point out in any photo.

Know any buildings that have roman remains buried at the base? The Gherkin does. At early stages of construction, the grave of a young Roman girl was discovered, preserved, and reburied. Now that is an interesting fact about what lies in the base of a big corporate building.

The Gherkin Building

Image source: Ed Robertson, London based Street Photographer Instagram: @occipitals

The Shard

AKA the London Bridge Tower is the tallest building in the UK at 309.6 metres and the most recognizable building in the skyline. Its beauty comes from the angled glass panes reflecting the sunlight and the sky. That makes the building blend with the sky changing with the seasons.

Developer and joint owner Irvine Sellar envisioned a ‘vertical city’ which houses retail space, offices, a hotel, apartments, restaurants, and a public viewing library. The building today accommodates more than 55,000 square metres of office space over 25 floors of restaurants, a 17-floor hotel, 13 floors of apartments, and a sky boutique. It is safe to say that Sellar’s vision was successfully executed.

A regular opening was out of the question when the building was introduced to the public. Its inauguration in the summer of 2012 was started by the Prime Minister of Qatar and attended by Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The ceremony wouldn’t have been complete without a memorable laser show.

The Shard at sunset

London City Hall

Referred to as ‘The Onion’ by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the London City Hall has become a prominent piece of the London Skyline. The London City Hall designed by Norman Foster of Foster and Partners is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority. Opened in 2002, the building was developed using computer modelling techniques. The structure was designed and built for maximum sustainability. Its unusual bulbous shape achieves optimum energy performance by minimizing the surface area exposed to direct sunlight. This directly decreases energy consumed by using only a quarter of that consumed in a typical office building.

The building allows for public use in “London’s Living Room” on the top floor. There, functions and exhibitions can take place. The rooftop also has a spectacular view of the city.

City Hall and early night life

Twentytwo, Bishopsgate

The 278-metres and 62-storey building offering office and social spaces, and public realms signals that London is active. Twentytwo was completed recently in 2020. It replaced an earlier plan that was barred following the Great Recession in 2012. PLP Architecture, the designers of Twentytwo, designed the vertical village with the present as well as future tenants in mind, and what they might want in the years 2030 and later. The quality of life and incentives for more fun and efficient work-life is enhanced in the high-ceilings structure. Endless amenities and activities are available to both the public, and office users.

Wouldn’t you be excited to wake up for work every morning, knowing you have access to yoga classes, a gym, variety of foods, bike park, and a climbing window? Yes. The fitness hub has a climbing window 125-metres above the ground. You can enjoy the city view while climbing up the side of the building. PLP Architecture was mindful of the layout. The internal staircases were intended to encourage connectivity and activity.

Innovation is being fully adopted in the 22 Bishopsgate building. It will be WiredScore Platinum certified. What is this and how is it innovative? Well, face recognition and a custom app allows access and enabling tenants to control the environment, connect, explore, and book services or events. This way, everything is booked and organised digitally. Facial recognition enables safety in a vertical village where the public can also enjoy some of the amenities.

View of 22 Bishopsgate London

Image source: Jamesbeard, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons .. alt text: 22 Bishopsgate, as seen from street level looking down the length of Gracechurch Street.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Now, for a building with a little more history. The St. Paul’s Cathedral located on the highest point in London was completed in 1710. Since then, it’s been one of the most iconic buildings in the capital, and one of the most prominent structures in the London Skyline. It was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren. It was one of the very many church commissions he received in the aftermath of the Great Fire in 1666. The cathedral was designed in a restrained Baroque style, as the contemporary Renaissance trends in Italian architecture influenced Wren’s vision. The Italian trends that inspired the style of St. Paul’s Cathedral can be pointed out at the dome. The dome is an influence of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and is the most notable feature of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

A notable feature that is not visible to the public, is the crypt that extends under the entire building. Rather than the ordinary purposes of a crypt underneath a church, the St. Paul’s Cathedral crypt holds a structural purpose in which larger piers balance the weight of slimmer piers that are essential. This is important due to the weak clay soil that is available in London.

The cathedral has been the location for several notable events such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, or the funeral of Lord Nelson. A Nazi bomb destroyed the famous dome back in 1940, but it was then reconstructed a few years following the attack.

St. Paul's Cathedral London

Image source:

What next for London’s skyline?

The London Skyline is growing as we speak, with multiple projects already in the works. Many buildings already existing were planned to be something very different, but with the process of working, plans do change, even multiple times. Keeping everyone in your construction team informed about any changes on the spot is key to a successfully efficient end product. Using PlanRadar in your next construction project will help keep everyone informed of every step and every change of plans from start to finish.

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