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Bishopsgate Tower Interview

Following the big fuss last week about what will be the next tallest building in London, the 307 metre tall Bishopsgate Tower which has been designed by architects Kohn Pederson Fox for German Investment fund DIFA - if it goes ahead of course - we had a nice chat with one of the architects who worked on the project who gave us a better insight into just what may well be breaking the thousand foot barrier in London before too long.

SN.com - Starting with the outside, one trend I've noticed with new towers is the innovative use of cladding, like Swiss RE, what's the angle with the DIFA Tower?

R - As far as the sustainability strategy for the building, the facade is a double skin with the single glazing on the outside and the thermal skin (double glazed openable windows) on the inside (the gherkin does the opposite). The cavity created allows us to naturally ventilate the building, as we have a mixed-mode ventilation system. The double skin allows us to have a fully glazed building which maximises daylight and helps reduce the need for artificial lighting.

SN.com - That sounds like a rather complex jigsaw of a glazing system to assemble to be honest.

R - One think that is really worth noting, is that apart from the very top and base of the building, every single piece of glass is exactly the same size- this is an amazing achievement in our opinion because it makes the project viable - and will give the building its unique character.

SN.com - Thats where the snakeskin moniker comes from is it?

R - Well, the planes of outer glass are inclined along the diagonal - if you see them in elevation - and overlap, hence the nick-name snake-skin, and allow us to keep a 1.5m planning grid on each floor.

SN.com - How did you deal with this at the base of the building, must have been a challenge to integrate that into street level?

R - As we get towards the base of the building, the outer glass 'peels' away from the inner glass to form a canopy all the way round the building which, along with soft landscaping mitigates wind. The canopy rises and falls towards the base to do this, and to announce entrances along the sides of the building

SN.com - It sounds rather efficient. I hear you looked at new power alternatives as well to reduce the buildings carbon output?

R - As you mentioned, the glazing at the top will incorporate a large expanse of Photovoltaic Cells - Ii think it is planned to be the largest in the U.K at around 1900 sq m. Other features will include the use of Biomass fuel, a Combined Heat and Power System (CHP)...

SN.com - So basically you'll exceed the current requirements for buildings such as L2 plus future ones?

R - I know that we are indeed exceeding the planned requirements, and are in line with the Mayorís very tough new sustainability strategy for London buildings.

SN.com - The previous Jahn plan had a public passage returned to it joining up the areas around it, I understand you've kept that?

R - We are re-instating a public right of way - that is now through the lobby of the existing building, and not very inviting or wheel-chair friendly - and providing a pedestrian link along the base of the building between Bishopsgate at the end of Threadneedle Street, and the Undershaft - linking to the open spaces and pedestrian routes around the Aviva building, and the proposed routes for 122 Leadenhall.

SN.com - Do you have plans for new public spaces too?

R - We are redeveloping Crosby square (which is now used as a taxi drop off and turn-around for garbage trucks) into a stopping-resting open space - half being covered by the canopy to allow for use all year. The square is lined with a cafe/restaurant, and other retail units to help animate the space.

SN.com - How did you get the entrance in with all this new public area as a large entrance would suck up space?

R - The office entrance takes up minimum space at the ground floor - escalators take people up to the first floor where the office lobby is.

SN.com - Some people have been saying you didnít realise how tall the building was until the end of the design process. Is this the case?

R - It's true that we had no idea that it was till we were asked to measure the height... the design process for us involved creating a form that sits very comfortably in the cluster, in terms of its relationship to the surrounding buildings - existing and proposed, so we never measured the height till the very end.

SN.com - What do you think of 'the spiral' nick name apparently used by some people involved in the project?

R - We have never actually called it 'the spiral', though I'd like to find out who calls it that... hehe.

SN.com - There's the usual luddite fuss from some quarters but are you optimistic about the future of the project?

R - This is a big project and it's bound to create controversy... so we are optimistic!

SN.com - Congratulations on a great design. You must be really proud because it is quite superb.

R - Thank you for the compliment... we all really feel very proud!

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Rendering of the base of DIFA Bishopsgate Tower London
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