City of London planning officer Peter Rees last week warned that building tall in cities should be seen as a “last resort”.
Rees cited Frankfurt, which he described as a “market garden city with skyscrapers”, Canary Wharf and Croydon as places where tall buildings did not work.
“Don’t build tall to change your fortunes, build tall because you are already successful and have run out of space,” he told delegates at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) conference.
Rees went on to suggest that despite its historic nature, central London was an acceptable place to build towers as long as projects “obeyed the rules”.
Rees told delegates: “If we are going to build beehives that poke through the clouds, we have to do it carefully without messing up the gossip networks, because that is the compost where the flowers grow.
He added: “What we have is a set of rules that tell you what you can’t do - obstruct St Paul’s or the City Airport.
“All of these set constraints but there is great flexibility,” Rees told the conference.
Rees also warned that he would not tolerate developments that were one-dimensional and known only for being tall.
“We’ve never tried to build the world’s tallest building here. If that is all you do, people will be bored in three months,” he said.
The conference was dominated by talk of the need for multi-purpose, adaptable building in high density surroundings.
Rees’ comments followed a pre-conference speech in which he attacked high-profile but under-occupied schemes outside the Square Mile.
He suggested they were “simply safety deposit boxes for foreign money of dubious origin”.