Londoners divided on skyscraper boom

Londoners divided on skyscraper boom
A picture dated August 12, 2010 shows the "Gherkin" tower in the City of London.

LONDON - Skyscrapers are shooting up all over London, transforming a skyline once dominated by Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral.

Some Londoners are delighted at their city's "Manhattanisation" but others warn it risks losing its soul.

"The City of London was a place of intricate streets," a 'precious' urban pattern inherited from Georgian times, said Kieran Long, curator in contemporary architecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

"You must be very careful with what you put there," he told AFP. "Some of the high buildings have done damage to that".

A new study has revealed that no fewer than 237 skyscrapers are being built or have permission to begin construction over the coming year across London.

"It's going to change the face of London probably greater than at anytime in its history, really, apart from maybe when St Paul's Cathedral was built," said Peter Murray, head of New London Architecture, a design and planning think tank.

Finished in 1710, St Paul's stands 111.3 metres (365 feet) tall - around a third of The Shard, Europe's highest skyscraper, which towers over the once-gritty Southwark neighbourhood.

Long warned places like the City of London and the West End were in danger of "losing" their character - a view not shared by passers-by at the foot of the "Walkie-Talkie", one of the signature towers changing the face of the British capital.

"I like them, I think they add character. They make London a bit more unusual," said City worker Lucille Davis.

Staring up at the skyscraper, Andy Arwood called it "amazing". "There are so many buildings in London which are boring and dull and someone has actually sat down with that and designed it.

I think it's brilliant!" he said.

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