Looking for some sunshine amidst the economic gloom? The construction industry may have been hit hard by the recession, but some projects are hitting back and showing a glimpse of better times ahead.
With all the current controversy over budget slashing and cuts in funding, it’s easy to become swept up in a wave of hyperbole. The construction industry in particular has taken a beating over the last year or so, and some say that the future may not be rosy just yet. The cut in public funds means that many proposed projects and developments have been postponed or cancelled entirely, with little or no money left over in the budget for anything more than a quick repair or refurbishment. However, there is light amid the gloom. Some private companies have recovered enough from the initial blow to reconsider their own shelved developments, taking at least some of the strain away from public projects. Projects such as The Shard, the iconic skyscraper set to dominate the skyline of London following its planned completion in 2012, have bounced back from the brink to provide a massive boost to construction, with The Shard employing Mace Group, a London-based consultancy and construction firm, to take on the challenges of such a massive project. The comparatively weak pound has also encouraged many overseas investors to take an interest in British architecture and construction, allowing projects such as The Cheesegrater to push through their financial issues as well as offering the economy a much-needed boost.
Designed in 2000 by Renzo Piano, one of a pair of architects behind Paris’s Pompidou Centre, The Shard’s construction was very nearly jeopardised in September 2007 when turbulent financial markets forced one of its main backers to sell its stake in the project just as preparations were being made for demolition of the original Southwark Towers on the development site. All plans were put on hold until finances could be sorted out; luckily, four new Qatari investors took control of the project in 2008, and complete demolition of Southwark Towers took place in early 2009. Construction began in March 2009 and, once completed in 2012, The Shard will become the tallest skyscraper in the European Union, housing office, apartments, an observation deck and a hotel within its 72 storeys.
Another project rising from recession, The Cube in Birmingham was 80% completed when financial troubles and a challenging property market led to a lack of additional funding being secured. Lloyds TSB, who had already supplied an £87 million speculative loan, called in PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrators in March 2010. PricewaterhouseCoopers agreed to continue the project with new funding secured through Lloyds TSB, and The Cube was completed in mid 2010. It now boasts offices, shops, flats, a hotel and a skyline restaurant.
The Cheesegrater, or to give it its proper name, The Leadenhall Building, is a distinctive wedge-shaped design by Richard Rogers, an architect known for his work on the Pompidou Centre and the Millennium Dome. It was approved by the City of London Corporation in May 2005, and demolition of the original building on the site took place between December 2006 and late 2008. However, the developer (British Land) announced in August 2008 that the project was to be delayed in a statement made to the London Stock Exchange. However, in late October 2010, British land teamed up with the Canadian company Oxford Properties, and construction is now set to begin in January 2011, providing 610,000 square feet of office space in central London.