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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 12:11 GMT
High-rise or heritage?
Jerry Thomas
The Politics Show London

London skyline
St Paul's and new neighbours

Since World War II, London's skyline has changed immeasurably - almost weekly, but architects and planners are defending this change in the face of Royal challenges.

Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, in the heart of London was finished in 1708 and for almost 250 years, no buildings taller than St Paul's 365' were allowed.

Now, 300 years on, the debate over what is deemed to be desirable and appropriate architecture to grace the capitals skyline, has flared up again, following a recent speech by Prince Charles.

Mould broken

Prince Charles
We may not only be destroying our heritage, but killing the goose that lays the golden egg
Prince Charles

However, the post war era saw the building of the first buildings that broke the St. Paul's embargo most notably the BT Tower.

The Lloyd's of London building was completed in 1986 and with it, the big bang in the City of London, created a new epoch.

Since then the new landmarks have sprung up across London from the Dome to the Gherkin, Canary Wharf and the London Eye. Nine of London's 12 tallest buildings were built after 2000.

Royal complaint

In an echo of his famous 1984 speech, when he attacked a planned extension to London's National Gallery as a "monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved friend", Prince Charles has complained that architects have been indulging in a "free for all (that) will leave London with a pockmarked skyline".

London skyline
How fast does the London skyline change?

The Prince's argument has placed him on a collision course with Lord Rogers, the Mayor of London's chief architectural adviser.

The world renowned Rogers has built some of the most influential buildings in the capital, including the Lloyd's of London building, and is an enthusiastic believer in tall buildings.

He made high-rise living a central theme of government urban policy in his Urban Taskforce report to the Blair government.

Lord Rogers
Lord Rogers: designer of the dramatic

Language similar... strategy differs

Both sides of the debate use similar language in stressing the need for a holistic architectural planning strategy with communities at the heart of all-urban planning.

But the ways in which they envisage these plans being realised are very different.

A focal point of the debate revolves around the use of "clusters". The idea is that when skyscrapers are given the green light, they should be built in clusters.

London skyline 2010
Projections for the London skyline in 2010

Prince Charles has suggested that all future skyscrapers be confined to Canary Wharf "rather than overshadowing Wren and Hawksmoor's churches".

But leading British architects, whilst vigorously denying that there is a plague of towers sweeping the capital, argue that London is a living, breathing city not a museum, and that building modern skyscrapers is fundamental to a sense of urban renewal.

We are joined in the studio by Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment... and by one of the UK's leading architects, Will Alsop.

The Politics Show London

The Politics Show for London, with Jon Sopel and Tim Donovan on Sunday 17 February 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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