Beauty, purity and muscularity

Words:
Hanif Kara

Hanif Kara reveals why he is so seduced by RSHP’s Leadenhall Building

In association with

Towers evoke a response in society that mixes optimism, progress, pride, bemusement, bafflement and a touch of awe like no other typology. As a structural engineer, I will surprise no-one by picking one of my two favourite ‘hip not bling’ towers – Leadenhall Building and St Mary’s Axe – as my icon. My choice is Leadenhall, both for the purity of its expression of steel and a profile that avoids crowding the sky – while beautifully exposing the construction method.

It delivers a lot (1 million ft2) with an inviting public realm and technical indexes beyond the conventional, but it’s the muscular steelwork I most adore, delivering a structural order with a megaframe where each floor steps 750mm. This took precision of design, fabrication and planning to another level.

 

Eastern profile of The Leadenhall Building.
Eastern profile of The Leadenhall Building. Credit: Richard Bryant, Courtesy of British Land/Oxford Properties

My early days on oil rigs give me a good measure of the gigantic forces the engineer has dealt with, in particular the design of the connections which will have exhausted the best brains at Arup, which were continually directed by the surgical scalpel of Graham Stirk’s relentless talent of working from the detail out. Contractor Laing O’Rourke and steelwork contractor Severfield both clearly and passionately delivered. 

‘Muscular’ steelwork in the view  from Level 45.
‘Muscular’ steelwork in the view from Level 45. Credit: Paul Raftery

Engineers talk about the additional structural optimisation that would have been possible if the primary bracing had faced the opposite way, but to me that is minor conversation. Guided throughout by British Land construction director Richard Elliot, the final result is almost an industrial product, a compelling masterpiece that will be a springboard for us all in many ways. 


 

Latest

The flooring manufacturer's award-winning Flotex Colour collection takes its inspiration from urban landscapes and now includes new designs, shades and formats

Forbo's Flotex textile flooring now has more options

The specialist flooring firm's carpets for medical and care home settings are made from Econyl regenerated nylon

Regeneration game: Care home carpets made from waste nylon

A city-wide regeneration being masterplanned by the council is righting some of the wrongs of the 1960s – can it be more flexible and futureproof while recapturing the optimism of that decade too?

A city-wide transformation is under way

Awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday Honours list for services to architecture, our editor Hugh Pearman gives his view on UK architecture, education and the wider state of the profession

Education, the Stirling Prize and the state of UK architecture

Wellness, sustainability and reuse are primary considerations for office design  – along with the social importance of the washrooms

Wellness, sustainability and reuse are primary considerations