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In the City, the last of the skyscrapers?

All that remains is the noise of the works. In the deserted streets of the City in this third English confinement, apart from a few buses and delivery vans, the hubbub of the crowd and the vehicles has disappeared, leaving the jackhammers and concrete mixers to reign supreme. Workers in fluorescent vests and heavy shoes walk alone in this temple normally dedicated to trade and finance.

At 22 Bishopsgate, very close to the Bank of England, the 278-meter-tall juggernaut is nearing completion. The tallest tower in London’s financial center (but not in London) should have received its first occupants at the end of January. Health precautions decided otherwise. The sixty elevators destined for the sixty-two floors will wait.

Also read the decryption: Across Europe, the telework revolution

But will this tower, and the other smaller ones under construction around, fill up after the pandemic? The City, where hardly anyone lives, is one of the places where teleworking has taken root the most. In November 2020, before the current strict containment, Britons with office jobs were those in Europe who worked the most from home, on average 2.7 days a week, compared to 2 days in the main countries of the rest of the continent , according to Morgan Stanley.

To this must be added the demographic hemorrhage in London. According to an estimate from the Center of Excellence for Economic Statistics (ESCOE), 700,000 people have left the British capital since the start of the pandemic, mainly East Europeans working in restaurants and hotels. Finally, Brexit reduces the attractiveness of the financial center. Are the City’s skyscrapers pyramids offered to a religion of the past, that of the office god?

“The last of the dinosaurs”

“This tower is the last of the dinosaurs, outdated even before opening”, annoys Peter Rees. The man knows what he is talking about: for almost three decades, he was in charge of the urban planning of the City. Under his leadership, towers one taller than the other were built to meet a glaring lack of square meters. He left his post shortly before the building permit granted to 22 Bishopsgate. “I have nothing to do with this horrible building. “ The building, which does not differ that much with the surroundings, is nicknamed The Wodge (“The big block”) by its critics.

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