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KPF’s skyline-altering residential towers get green-lit in London

a tall order

KPF’s skyline-altering residential towers get green-lit in London

Council planners have giving this 702-unit high-rise development in west London a warm welcome. Others, not so much. (Courtesy KPF)

A pair of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)-designed high-rises are set to become two of the tallest all-residential towers in London after receiving a crucial blessing from the Ealing council. This marks a major step forward for a rather contentious project that has residents and officials in Acton, West London, taking opposing sides since it was first announced last year.

As Architects’ Journal reported, a relatively new Holiday Inn will be razed to make for the snugly situated twin buildings, one of which will be 45 stories and the other 55 stories, with the tallest topping out at about 705 feet. A sky bridge will connect the towers between their 26th and 34th floors while a podium with a sizable hotel, retail, and some office space will link the residential towers at their respective bases.

Composed of nine habitable floors, the sky bridge is decidedly more substantial—more of a bulky suspended housing block wedged into two slender volumes than a proper bridge—than other notable skyscraper-linking appendages found at buildings like SHoP Architects’ American Copper Buildings in Manhattan or César Pelli’s Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Building Design noted that 36 of the development’s apartments will be located within the sky bridge, and that the sky bridge along with both towers will have rooftop garden terraces.

There will be 702 new residential units in total between the towers, which are being developed by Egyptian company Aldau.

Currently, the tallest residential towers in London are One Blackfriars (557 feet) and the St George Wharf Tower (594 feet). The Aldau project may ultimately not be the tallest in London, however, when considering that work on another lanky residential tower, Landmark Pinnacle, is underway on the Isle of Dogs. When complete, the 75-floor Landmark Pinnacle will top out at 764 feet, making it the tallest residential building in all of the United Kingdom, a title currently held by a 659-foot tower at the Deansgate Square development in Manchester.

illustration of a residential skyscraper from the street
Council planners have giving this 702-unit high-rise development at 4 Portal Way in London a warm welcome. Others, not so much. (Mozes/Courtesy KPF)

In addition to getting an all-important go-ahead from the borough, council planning officers gave the yet-to-be-named development a warm reception, noting in a report that “in its own context, the scheme will act as a catalyst for change in the surrounding area whilst providing an acceptable balance of employment generating uses and animated street frontages, combined with a substantial amount of much-needed housing and including a significant number of affordable homes.”

“This brings to life our vision for a mixed-use ‘hub’ with a hotel, flexible workspace, residential use and a public venue at the top of the building,” said John Bushell, design principal with KPF, in a statement. “It will be an active anchor to the emerging area and we are very pleased to see this vision received a resolution to grant.”

Other reactions to the highway-flanking, skyline-altering project, located in the Old Oak Common section of Acton on Portal Way, have been less gracious. Per The Guardian, local residents have called KPF’s design “extremely aggressive,” while Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets, a London based research institute that champions high-density but low-rise/street-scale residential development, referred to the twin Acton high-rises as “London’s Trump Tower.”

“This is solving London’s housing needs with false logic,” Boys Smith explained to The Guardian. “We need housing. This is housing. Therefore we need this. But human beings don’t appreciate being reduced to the scale of ants.”

Planners with the office of London Mayor Sadiq Khan are also not entirely keen on the development, noting last year that “the bulk, height and massing of this very tall building raises concern in terms of its impacts on townscape and on the Old Oak & Wormholt conservation area.”

Khan, who has the authority to squash Ealing Council’s approval and veto the development, also found that dedicating only 35 percent of the towers’ 702 units to affordable housing to be “not acceptable.”