72 Upper Ground: the latest development selling the Thames down the river

Illustration by Observer Design.
View of the south bank of the Thames, showing, in pink, the shape of the proposed 72 Upper Ground, and, in red and yellow, other proposals that have the go-ahead.

The riverside was once lauded as ‘London’s greatest opportunity’. But a lack of strategy and overview has seen it crowded with unsightly towers that benefit profit-grubbing developers over communities


The Thames, world-famous river through the heart of the British capital, without which London would not exist, half-tamed work of nature, inspiration to Dickens and the Kinks, to Monet and Wordsworth, along whose banks are strewn four Unesco world heritage sites, must surely deserve some love and care, some sort of vision or coherent overview. It is, as the architect Richard Rogers once said, “primarily a public space, not a private opportunity”. It has indeed been the object of dreams and hopes. Yet over the past 15 years a proliferation of large developments has made it a gold-diggers’ gulch, a miles-long mine of real-estate value.

The latest of these is a £400m office-led proposal by the developers Mitsubishi Estate and CO-RE called 72 Upper Ground. It is situated on a privileged spot, where a bend in the river gives it exceptional prominence, alongside the publicly funded culture palaces of the South Bank and opposite the classical set piece of Somerset House. Its floor area of nearly 1m square feet is 20% more than that of the Gherkin, its height of 109 metres is slightly lower than St Paul’s Cathedral. It would replace a much smaller 1970s tower that was used by ITV: the new building would have 225% of its floor area and add nearly 30% to its height.

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