It’s shape is a combination of metaphor and ultimate practicality,” says Larry Malcic of architects HOK surveying a seven-foot model of the 67-storey tower his firm has designed to rise from a plot of land at the end of West India Quay.
We’re standing in developer Greenland’s marketing suite for The Spire . It’s located not on the site of the £800million project but next door in a Grade I listed sugar warehouse and is due to open on October 13.
Placing what will be western Europe’s tallest residential building next to a strip of commercial real estate might have raised a few eyebrows during the planning process.
But Larry explains with a soft American lilt that he sees it as a continuation of a tradition more than 200 years in the making.
“These warehouses, when they were opened in 1803, were the largest of their kind in the world,” he says. “So this has always been a place where you have big solid buildings.
“The Spire is the vertical version of what the listed buildings were in the 1800s. For the metalwork on the tower we’ve selected a bronze shade, which we feel is similar to the aged London stock of the warehouses, so there will be a colour relationship as well.”
And HOK has form for successfully bordering the listed structures – it was responsible for the curved structure at the other end of the quay.
Larry says: “We designed the West India Quay Tower about a decade ago and, at the time, at 32 storeys, it was seen as a very tall project. We had one side facing the water and even today when I walk outside there I still find the reflections of the dock in the windows very pleasing.
“We were approached by Greenland who explained that The Spire was going to be their flagship project in Europe.
“They have yet to do a development from scratch here and they wanted something that would be distinctive and that would help explain how they approach development, so we wanted to do something that was out of the ordinary in every way and it was such a wonderful site, one we knew well.
“To be on the length of the water rather than on the side of it meant we could develop something that really responded to that and, because of the nature of the bend in the Thames, it also has the length of the river looking to the City and the West End.
"The shape of the tower developed from the inside out and the outside in.
“We were looking at how we could get the best natural light to maximise the views but also how we can come up with a shape that is still efficient but will create a really dynamic silhouette.
“This shape makes better units on the inside because it means we can keep the building narrow as it has curved edges but it also means every room in every apartment is a little bit different and you always get panoramic views.”
Aside from reflecting the waters of the east, what excites Larry most is the range of facilities that The Spire is able to offer.
With suites starting at £595,000, he maintains what’s on offer constitutes impressive value with 2,000 residents able to access an exclusive 35th floor spa, swimming pool, club lounge and bar.
“This is how we really encourage people to get together,” he says. “When you put facilities like these in the basement people go there if they’re hardcore.
“But if you put them up high it costs more but it gives you so much more and it means they will be used.
“The facilities on the 35th floor have been named the Saffron Club – you have a health club, spa, gym and meeting rooms, which residents can use for business or for private socialising. There’s also a cinema.
“Say you own a suite but want to have a larger group of friends over for a dinner party – you could use one of those rooms for that.
“Then, the most exciting part perhaps, at least to me, is the swimming pool with its infinity edge.
“The pool is about 18m and housed in a double-height space. It is probably one of the highest, most glamorous pools in London.”
Second perhaps is Larry’s enthusiasm for its views.
He says: “When you have just a window you’re only looking in one direction but with these curving facades we’ve designed, then you are getting panoramas.
“This is really how we have maximised the view. You won’t have any tall buildings. No tall buildings will be built in the water either
“And then to the south you have Canary Wharf, which has only been developed, so it will be a long time before that changes
“It’s a building that celebrates its location as the tallest and the most freestanding of all the group of buildings around here.
“So many of the other buildings are rectangular boxes and this immediately says, ‘We are not an office building, we are not trying to house people in the most economical way possible – what we’re trying to do is make something special, to make a statement’.”
Other facilities include lower floor pavilions built to mirror the height of the listed warehouses with units containing shops and businesses. Also included are communal amenity spaces, a play space for children on the roof of one of the pavilions as well as a music room and quieter areas for adults.
Glazing on the third floor is set back so residents can run or walk round the whole structure. The development also includes 96 affordable homes located between floors four and 11.
Larry says: “Around the tower have all those amenities and the landscaped areas with birch trees and sculptural forms that are woven through the tress, which rise up and down from becoming play walls for kids and going down to benches so you can sit out there.
“There are also internal winter gardens for when the weather is inclement.”
However Larry himself prefers the homes around the 38th floor. He says: “I particularly enjoy these ºyou come into a splayed unit and they’re close to the pool and, of course, the bar.”
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