The upward growth of London's skyline... and how Roto has helped make a Cheesegrater










London’s skyline is ascending fast. While the UK capital is a long way off the likes of New York and Hong Kong in terms of being a towering metropolis, some notable high-rise buildings have been appearing in recent years.

300 years at the top

It's interesting to remember that St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London until 1962. It held that title for the best part of three centuries. Now, it’s dwarfed by over 30 different buildings.

St Paul’s was first overtaken by the Post Office Tower (now the Telecom Tower), which at 189 metres (620 feet) became easily London’s tallest structure. It held the record through the 1960s and 1970s, when the next tallest building added to the capital was the tower at Guy’s Hospital in Southwark.

In the 1980s, the completion of the NatWest Tower (or Tower 42) in the heart of the City of London financial district gave the capital a new tallest landmark.

Fleet Street moves to Docklands

But the more recent proliferation of tall buildings didn’t really get underway until the early 1990s, when the regeneration of the East London Docklands resulted in what was then Britain’s tallest building, One Canada Square - a complex that now houses most of the newspapers that were historically located in Fleet Street.

Which brings us to the 21st century, in which London’s high-rise construction began where the last one left off: in Docklands. New towers included the HSBC building and Barclay’s headquarters at One Churchill Place.

But the Square Mile was about to strike back, most famously with an iconic building at 30 St Mary Axe.

The City grows a Gherkin

It’s first official title was the Swiss Re building, but it’s always been best-known by its nickname: The Gherkin. Completed in 2003 and opened the following year, the Norman Foster design was touted as an achievement in environmentally-friendly construction, with energy-saving features such as the extensive use of passive solar heating. It is claimed that it costs about half as much to heat and light as other similar-sized buildings.

(A few years later, Foster also designed the less well-known but equally unusual Willis Building, located just down the road.)

The City skyline has since been rising at quite a pace. The tallest of the new skyscrapers in the Square Mile is Heron Tower on Bishopsgate. It features fully-glazed double decker lifts, providing a spectacular view to those travelling in them.

The Shard shoots upwards

Then, in 2012, as London geared up for the Olympic Games, a new construction was rising on the other side of the River Thames. At 310 metres (1,016 feet), it immediately became the tallest building, not just in Britain, but the whole of the EU.

The Shard is very much an international project. Italian architect Renzo Piano designed it, and Qatari investors provided most of the funding. It became a common sight to TV viewers and visitors to the capital during the London 2012 Games, and large sections of British public seem to have taken it to their hearts. As of 2013, the viewing gallery is now open to them – for a fee.

Although it seems unlikely anything will exceed The Shard for sheer height any time soon, more tall towers are under construction. Going up right now and scheduled for completion in 2014 is the so-called Walkie Talkie at 20 Fenchurch Street. It only takes a glance to see why it has the tagline, “The building with more up top”.

The Cheesegrater gets some help from Roto

And that brings us to the Leadenhall Building, in which Roto has an interest, having supplied hardware for over 500 windows.

Named after its address, 122 Leadenhall Street, this brand new skyscraper is being built right opposite the iconic Lloyd’s of London building. It’s designed by the same architect, Richard Rogers, the man who also gave you the 02 Arena (or, at the time he designed it, the Millennium Dome).

The statistics tell a story in themselves: 225 metres (737 feet) tall. 48 floors, accessed by a total of 29 lifts, and yes, there are 560 windows – all featuring Roto hardware.

The shape of the building has resulted in a nickname, one that will surely stick: The Cheesegrater. There are good reasons for the sloping face: it ensures views of St Paul's Cathedral are not obscured.

The design is unusual beneath the surface too. There is no concrete core: instead, the steel structure is designed to give the building all the rigidity it requires. It’s the tallest building ever to be constructed in this way.

The windows needed a bit of clever thinking. They’re inclined inwards at 10 degrees. Of course, Tilt&Turn hardware is generally intended for use on installations that stand vertically. Roto engineers have designed and manufactured bespoke hinges especially for this project, and they form part of a dedicated hardware specification based on the ALU T540 system.

Some of these windows act as external entry points for the emergency services. On these, a flush-encased gearbox is fitted. This has a spindle drive, which can be accessed from the outside by fire crews, who are able to use a tapered spindle (a standard part of their kit) to operate the gearbox and open the sash.

Designing bespoke solutions is only one part of the service, because Roto’s ethos goes beyond design and manufacture: it’s also about collaboration. On this project, Roto has worked closely with contractor Yuanda, providing consultation and on-site support during the installation process.

The Leadenhall building is due to be completed and opened in the latter part of 2014. When you next see it, remember: that tilting side contains some Tilt&Turn windows – and the hardware is Roto.

You can follow the building’s progress on its official website and on Twitter @LeadenhallBding.

Are you on Twitter? We are too - follow us @RotoFrank. Roto is also on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Written bySmithScribe
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