The Future of Skyscrapers in Western Europe

Countries in both North America and Asia have seen a recent influx of new skyscrapers. Europe on the other hand, has fallen behind in this respect. The Burj Khalifa, in UAE, is almost two and a half times taller than the tallest skyscraper in Europe, Moscow’s Mercury Tower.

A number of European cities have traditionally limited the construction of skyscrapers to areas outside the downtown core. Examples of this include Canary Wharf in London, as well as La Defence in Paris (Forbes). However, cities that were heavily bombed during WWII have adopted a more centralized model; Frankfurt is home to over thirty buildings that are above 100m (329 ft) tall, most of which are located in the downtown core.

Frankfurt Skyline. Photo Credit: WSD Blog

London Tower Reaches New Heights

London has recently undergone a transformation, with a number of tall towers being built in the downtown core. The tallest tower, known as The Shard, completed construction in 2012. This 72 storey, 306m (1004 ft) tall building plays host to the tallest observation deck in Europe. The Shard is currently the tallest building in Western Europe, and the second tallest in the entire continent (The Shard).

The Shard in London Adjacent to Tower Bridge. Photo credit: Safe and Stand

The vision for the tower was to blend the new with the old, and avoid overshadowing the cities iconic landmarks. It can be argued from the above photo that this has been achieved.

Paris’ New Look

The recently built tower in London will not boast the record of Western Europe’s tallest skyscraper for much longer. Developers in Paris recently attained approval for the construction of two 320m (1050 ft) tall twin towers. The two towers will be located in the La Defence district, with a project construction cost of $4 billion. In an effort to preserve the historical significance of Paris however, these buildings will fall short of the Eiffel Tower which stands at a height of 324m (1063 ft) (Bloomberg). The buildings are scheduled for completion in early 2019 (European Estate).

Proposed Twin Towers in Paris’ La Defence Region. Photo Credit: European Estate

These skyscrapers are the first example of multi-use towers in Paris. They will play host to luxury apartments, offices and a five star hotel. This model has been adopted in cities such as Dubai, and has proven to be quite successful. However, many people believe that investors will be wary of this development. A recent study projected that office use in Paris will drop by twenty percent this year (Bloomberg). The building developer, Heritage Group, believes that these towers will create a new market within Paris. Alexander Kraft, chairman of Sotheby’s International Reality for France & Monaco, stated “This complex will offer services that are just not available on the Paris market at the moment. Owners of property would have access to a wide array of hotel services such as maid service, room service, etc. If it works, it can initiate the creation of a new market” (European Estate).

The Reality

There is an active debate regarding the development of tall towers within historic European cities. Historians argue that the large structures will overshadow the small, historically significant regions of the city. On the other hand, many believe that these towers will not only modernize European city skylines, but will provide a new perspective (and better view) of all the great history that the city has to offer.

It is important that cities proceed with caution in this respect. Although I support the construction of new skyscrapers, care should be taken to ensure that they are integrated with the existing infrastructure. Examples such as The Shard in London prove that this is possible. With the continuing success in these endeavours, more skyscrapers will be approved for construction, giving Europe a strong foothold in the race for the tallest and most spectacular skyscraper.

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