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Designs for the new park in Vauxhall by Erect Architecture with J&L Gibbons

London’s answer to New York’s High Line park began to take shape in June after two London architecture firms won a competition to design a landscaped walkway just south of the River Thames that will link new and existing galleries, public works of art and an open-air auditorium. Erect Architecture and the landscape architects J & L Gibbons beat 100 entries from 21 countries to design the promenade, which will stretch from the Garden Museum next to Lambeth Palace (the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury) to the site of the former 17th-19th century pleasure gardens in Vauxhall.

“The idea is to connect the gallery district that is emerging in Vauxhall in a green and interesting way,” says Chris Law, one of the directors of Vauxhall One, a group of local businesses that launched the competition in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects. The area currently boasts the contemporary art spaces Gasworks and Beaconsfield, and a new gallery called Cabinet is due to be built this summer. Damien Hirst’s gallery also opens on Newport Street next year. There are further plans to use the abandoned railway arches next to Vauxhall station as exhibition spaces.


Anny Shaw
The Art Newspaper


‘It’s not about priapismo’ … the Shard, at 310m the EU’s tallest building. Photograph: Matt Crossick/EMPICS Entertainment

The storm clouds have been gathering over the Shard ever since it was announced, 11 years ago. Now that the building has reached its full height, it has inevitably become a lightning rod. Few structures in Britain have so dominated the skyline or the architectural debate. To its opponents, it has stabbed London in the heart: it is too tall, it destroys the scale of the city, it disrupts historic views, it is in the wrong place, it is a waste of energy – a monument to greed, money, inequality, foreign influence and broken Britain. To its supporters, however, it is a jolt of the modern – the moment London truly joined the 21st century.

Appropriately, on the day its architect Renzo Piano meets me there, the clouds have all but engulfed the building. On a clear day, apparently, you can see 60 miles from the top. This isn’t one of them. Even from the eighth floor, the riverbank opposite is a blur, obscured by fog and a cascade of rainwater running all the way down the sloping windows from the 87th floor. But Piano seems impervious to both the weather and the lightning bolts of criticism. Tall, elegant, relaxed and mellifluously spoken, the 74-year-old Italian looks every bit the internationally renowned architect. Well, almost. Beneath his raincoat, he’s wearing a T-shirt with a pink slogan. “Trust me, I’m an architect,” it says.

“There’s a moment when you need to trust,” Piano smiles, pointing at his shirt. “Because you can’t predict everything. You cannot prove mathematically that what you’re doing is going to work. But you have to be bloody sure – because if you do something like this wrong, it’s wrong for centuries.” He told the judge the same thing during the public inquiry into its planning. “And I was keeping my fingers crossed in my pocket,” he says.


Steve Rose

Design for the ‘Cheesegrater’ in City of London. Photograph: PR

Decisions taken by property developers to go ahead with the “Cheesegrater” and the “Walkie Talkie” towers in the City will see London’s skyline transformed in the next few years. The buildings, due to open in 2014, will be among the tallest and the most striking skyscrapers in the capital since Swiss Re’s Gherkin opened in 2004.

British Land, run by former Barclays banker Chris Grigg, said today that it had teamed up with Canada’s Oxford Properties to build the 47-storey Leadenhall Building, nicknamed the Cheesegrater because of its wedge-shaped profile.

It is the second major project in the Square Mile to be given the go-ahead within a week, a sign that confidence is returning to the City property market. Last week rival Land Securities, Britain’s biggest property developer, said it would restart work on a 37-storey building dubbed the Walkie Talkie, reflecting its shape and sloping sides, in nearby Fenchurch Street after signing a £500m deal with Canary Wharf Group. Both towers were put on hold during the credit crunch when the market ground to a halt as banks slashed jobs and cancelled office relocations.


Julia Kollewe

Anish Kapoor in front of Sky Mirror, Red, in Kensington Gardens. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

As a blood red sun appeared to rise over the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, while a huge silver moon set over the Long Water lake, it was clear the challenge for the round-the-clock security guards will be to keep swans, dogs and children off the art, not any vandals or robbers who might be interested to learn that several million pounds worth of contemporary art has landed in the heart of London.

Anish Kapoor was almost as bewitched as the swans, even under the most Monday morningish of grey skies.

“The best site in London for a piece of art,” he said, looking across the water at the great grey stainless steel disc of his Sky Mirror, “probably in the world.”

While Kapoor’s giant pieces have been exhibited in the open air across the world and in many places in Britain, the last London saw of the Turner prize-winning sculptor was when he caused grievous bodily harm in the name of art to the Royal Academy, installing an engine forcing a giant block of crimson wax through narrow doorways, and a cannon which fired more blocks through another door until the room beyond looked like a particularly messy abattoir.


Maev Kennedy

Green shoots … the new Strata tower in Elephant & Castle, London. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

I am standing on the wind-buffeted tip of the Strata tower, looking out through the blades of what appear to be an enormous propeller, at the London skyline and the green basin beyond. St Paul’s cathedral, across the river, seems close enough to touch. It’s the kind of view, and the kind of heroically stylised building, you would expect to see in some 1930s sci-fi movie: the perfect place for a hero and a villain to have a rooftop showdown.

At 147 metres, the newly opened Strata is London’s tallest residential building. The nine-metre blades I’m standing beneath are housed in one of three wind turbines that crown this new tower soaring above Elephant and Castle, an area of the city not known for flashy penthouses. But Elephant and Castle is undergoing a massive, if slow, transition from a rundown miasma of noisy road intersections, underpasses and vast housing estates into what the Borough of Southwark hopes will be a £1.5bn model of inner-city regeneration.


Jonathan Glancey