New London Architecture

London's Growing Up: A Decade of Building Tall

Member Download Preview
Since the launch of the first NLA London Tall Buildings Survey in 2014, NLA have sat at the forefront of the debate on London’s evolving skyline. A decade on, this anniversary edition sheds light on how tall buildings have transformed London over the last ten years, and how they are likely to continue to shape London into the future.

With thanks to our sponsors: Multiplex, Hayes Davidson, C|T Group.


By Peter Murray, Co-founder, NLA

This document marks not only the 10th Anniversary of the NLA London Tall Buildings Survey but also the 20th anniversary of the London Plan. One of the most instructive lessons on the impact of the tall building clusters resulting from the 2004 London Plan can be seen in our model in The London Centre. This clearly sets out the physical reality of Ken Livingstone’s plan and its genesis in the ideas of the compact city developed by the late Richard Rogers. The model shows how the tall clusters emerge from the largely low-rise city, creating areas of energy, growth and change, mostly on brownfield sites, leaving the majority of the existing city untouched.

Livingstone’s aim was that the clusters would “create attractive landmarks enhancing London's character; help to provide a coherent location for economic clusters of related activities.”

But over the years even the definition of a tall building has changed. When we set out the criteria of a tall building in our first report in 2014, we selected 20 storeys as a minimum height that most people could understand since the most ubiquitous tall buildings, local authority housing towers, were about that height. Today, the London Plan decrees that tall buildings are “generally substantially taller than their surroundings and cause a significant change to the skyline”. It’s up to the boroughs to define what is a tall building but it could be as low as 6 storeys or 18 metres.

The conflation of “substantially taller than their surroundings” and “significant change to the skyline” arose from the instructions from Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State at MHSCG to Mayor Sadiq Khan, about “gentle density” in high streets and town centres and higher density in clusters. But they are not the same thing. Skyline changes impact on a wide area, sometimes pan-London, and they should form a part of Mayoral rather than borough policy.

As part of our proposals in that first report to assist in London-wide decision-making, we suggested the Mayor commissions a digital model. While it was deemed a good idea, it has yet to be delivered, although authorities like the City of London Corporation have used digital modelling to great effect for some years.

We also suggested that there should be a higher level of design review for tall buildings, an idea taken up by the Skyline Campaign but which to our knowledge has only been used once with the Mayor's Design Advocates' review of proposals for the Fosters and Partners' proposal for The Tulip to the east of the City.

Tall buildings have changed the face of London substantially over the last 20 years and will continue to do so — the pipeline that NLA has tracked means there is at least ten years' supply that has already been defined. London's population continues to grow, passing the 10 million mark at the end of this decade. We'll still need tall buildings; and NLA will continue to keep a close watch on what's going on.


4 Foreword
6 Executive summary
9 Sizing up the Skyline - How building tall has changed in a decade
79 Project showcase
135 Endnotes
137 Acknowledgements and profiles

Publication Details

Published 9 May 2024
139 Pages

Member Download Preview

Tall Buildings


Non-members can download one free report by creating an NLA account and subscribing.
Create Account



What’s driven our changing skyline?


What’s driven our changing skyline?

Ahead of our 'London’s Growing Up! A decade of building tall’ report launch, Brian Smith of AECOM discusses the evolutio...

Contrasting styles


Contrasting styles

Karen Cook of PLP Architecture led the design team for 22 Bishopsgate – the tallest tower in the Square Mile – and is de...

Watch video
The City denies it will be converting offices to Resi


The City denies it will be converting offices to Resi

In this interview, Policy Chair Catherine McGuinness tells Peter Murray that recent press headlines on stories about the...

Watch video

Stay in touch

Upgrade your plan

Choose the right membership for your business

Billing type:
All prices exclude VAT
View options for Personal membership