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Tower 42
Tower 42 looking north from Bishopsgate 2011-05-04.jpg
Tower 42 is the fifth-tallest building in the City of London
Former names NatWest Tower; International Financial Centre
Record height
Tallest in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1991
Preceded by BT Tower
Surpassed by One Canada Square
General information
Type Commercial
Location London, EC2
Coordinates 51°30′55″N 0°05′02″W / 51.51528°N 0.08389°W / 51.51528; -0.08389Coordinates: 51°30′55″N 0°05′02″W / 51.51528°N 0.08389°W / 51.51528; -0.08389
Construction started 1971
Completed 1980
Height
Roof 183 metres (600 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 47
Floor area 30,100 m2 (324,000 sq ft)
Lifts/elevators 21
Design and construction
Architect R Seifert & Partners
Structural engineer Pell Frischmann
Main contractor John Mowlem & Co Ltd

Tower 42 is a 183 metres (600 ft) skyscraper in the City of London. It is the fifth-tallest in the City and fifteenth-tallest in Greater London. Its original name was the National Westminster Tower (commonly known as the NatWest Tower), having been built to house NatWest's international headquarters. Seen from above, the shape of the tower resembles that of the NatWest logo (three chevrons in a hexagonal arrangement).

The tower, designed by Richard Seifert and engineered by Pell Frischmann, is located at 25 Old Broad Street in the ward of Cornhill. It was built by John Mowlem & Co between 1971 and 1980, first occupied in 1980, and formally opened on 11 June 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II.

The construction cost was £72 million (approximately £222 million today).2018 It is 183 metres (600 ft) high, which made it the tallest building in the United Kingdom until the topping out of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1990. It was the tallest building to have been built in London in the 1980s. It held the status of tallest building in the City of London for 30 years, until it was surpassed by the Heron Tower in December 2009.

The building today is multi-tenanted and comprises Grade A office space and restaurant facilities, with restaurants on the 24th and 42nd floors. In 2011, it was bought by the South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for £282.5 million.

History

Construction

Bank and Royal Exchange c1974 - geograph.org.uk - 53261
NatWest Tower during construction, viewed from Bank junction, c. 1974

Demolition of the site commenced in 1970 and the tower was completed in 1980. The building was constructed by John Mowlem & Co around a huge concrete core from which the floors are cantilevered, giving it great strength but significantly limiting the amount of office space available.

In total, there are 47 levels above ground, of which 42 are cantilevered. The lowest cantilevered floor is designated Level 1, but is in fact the fourth level above ground. The cantilevered floors are designed as three segments, or leaves, which approximately correspond to the three chevrons of the NatWest logo when viewed in plan. The two lowest cantilevered levels (1 and 2) are formed of a single "leaf"; and the next two (3 and 4) are formed of two leaves. This pattern is repeated at the top, so that only levels 5 to 38 extend around the whole of the building.

The limitations of the design were immediately apparent - even though the building opened six years before Big Bang, and so there was less of a requirement for large trading floors, the bank decided not to locate its foreign exchange and money market trading operation ("World Money Centre") in the tower; the unit remained in its existing location at 53 Threadneedle Street. Other international banking units, such as International Westminster Bank's London Branch and the Nostro Reconciliations Department remained at their locations (at 41 Threadneedle Street and Park House, Finsbury Square, respectively) due to lack of space in the tower.

Innovative features in the design included double-decked lifts, which provide an express service between the ground/mezzanine levels and the sky lobbies at levels 23 and 24. Double-decked lifts and sky lobbies were both new to the UK at the time. Other innovative features included an internal automated "mail train" used for mail deliveries and document distribution; an automated external window washing system; and computer controlled air conditioning. The tower also had its own telephone exchange in one of the basement levels – this area was decorated with panoramic photographs of the London skyline, creating the illusion of being above ground.

NatwestTowerModel
Model of the NatWest Tower, on display at the London Science Museum.

Fire suppression design features included pressurised stairwells, smoke venting and fire retardant floor barriers. However, at the time of design, fire sprinkler systems were not mandatory in the UK and so were not installed. It was this omission, coupled with a fire in the tower during the 1996 refurbishment, that prompted the Greater London Council to amend its fire regulations and require sprinkler installations at all buildings.

The cantilever is constructed to take advantage of the air rights granted to it and the neighbouring site whilst respecting the banking hall on that adjacent site, as only one building was allowed to be developed. For a time it was the tallest cantilever in the world.

Ownership

Following NatWest's refurbishment of the tower, the bank renamed it the International Finance Centre, in 1997. The building was subsequently acquired by Hermes Real Estate and BlackRock's UK property fund in 1998 for GB£226 million. In 2010 they put the property on the market at an expected price of GB£300 million. This would potentially have been the largest single commercial property sale in the City of London in 2010. In July 2010 it was reported that Chinese Estates Group had entered exclusive discussions to buy Tower 42. but this deal did not conclude and it was sold in 2011 to South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for £282.5 million.

Occupancy

NatWest occupation

Tower 42 009
National Westminster Tower entrance forecourt in 1981
National Westminster Tower level 42 viewing gallery
The NatWest Tower's viewing gallery at Level 42, as seen in 1981. This area is now in use as the Vertigo 42 champagne bar

Upon completion, the tower was occupied by a large part of NatWest's International Division. The upper floors were occupied by the division's executive management, marketing, and regional offices, moving from various locations in the City of London. The lower floors were occupied by NatWest's Overseas Branch, moving from its previous location at 52/53 Threadneedle Street.

The full floor configuration was as follows:

Floors Configuration Occupants
unnamed Core only Plant floor
unnamed Core only Plant floor
42 Core and cantilever (1 leaf) Viewing Gallery
41 Core and cantilever (1 leaf) Corporate hospitality suite
39 – 40 Core and cantilever (2 leaves) Corporate hospitality rooms and kitchens
37 – 38 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Executive Management
36 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Planning & Projects; Subsidiaries & Affiliates; Administration
35 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Advances; Marketing & Co-ordination
34 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) United Kingdom Region
33 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Corporate Financial Services; staff restaurant
32 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Online Trading Services
31 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Plant floor
29 – 30 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Corporate Financial Services
28 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Asia & Australasia Region
27 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Latin America Region; staff restaurant
26 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Africa & Middle East Region; Eastern Europe & Scandinavia Region
25 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Northern Europe Region; Southern Europe Region
24 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Treasurer's Department; Correspondent Bank Relationships
23 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Financial Control Department
22 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Plant floor
21 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) North America Representative Office
20 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Personnel Department
19 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch – Management
14 – 18 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch – International Trade & Banking Services
13 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Plant floor
12 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Mail & Translations
9 – 11 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch – Accounting
8 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch – Payments Abroad
5 – 7 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch – Inland Payments
4 Core and cantilever (2 leaves) Staff restaurant
3 Core and cantilever (2 leaves) Maintenance, services
1 – 2 Core and cantilever (1 leaf) Maintenance, telephony, services
Podium Core and entrance structure Building control centre
Mezzanine Core and entrance structure Upper entrance lobby & lifts
Ground Core and entrance structure Lower entrance lobby & lifts

The adjacent annexe building at 27 Old Broad Street was occupied by NatWest's Overseas Branch cashiers and foreign notes and coin dealing operation.

1993 bombing and refurbishment

In 1993, NatWest had planned a major premises relocation that would have seen the International Banking Division move from the tower and be replaced with its Domestic Banking Division, enabling the bank to terminate its lease of the Drapers Gardens tower. These plans had to be abandoned after the tower was damaged in the April 1993 Bishopsgate bombing, a Provisional Irish Republican Army truck bombing in the Bishopsgate area of the City of London. The bomb killed one person and extensively damaged the tower and many other buildings in the vicinity, causing a total of over £1 billion worth of damage to the area. The tower suffered severe damage and had to be entirely reclad and internally refurbished at a cost of £75 million. (Demolition was considered, but would have been too difficult and expensive.) The external re-clad was carried out by Alternative Access Logistics with the use of a multi-deck space frame system to access three floors at once with the ability to move up and down the whole building.

On 17 January 1996, during the repairs and possibly from the welding being undertaken, a fire started at the top of the building. Five hundred workmen were evacuated and smoke was seen coming out of the top of the building. A helicopter using thermal imaging equipment pinpointed the source of the fire, which was on the 45th floor in a glass-fibre cooling tower. After refurbishment, NatWest decided not to re-occupy and renamed the building the International Financial Centre, then sold it.

Current occupation

Canary Wharf and Gherkin
East-facing view from Vertigo 42

Previous owners, UK property company Greycoat, renamed it Tower 42 in 1995, in reference to its 42 cantilevered floors. It is now a general-purpose office building occupied by a variety of companies.

Current tenants of the building include:

  • Adjusting Services International Limited - ASi
  • Avaya Technologies
  • Boston Technologies, Inc.
  • CEBS Secretariat
  • City Osteopath Clinics
  • Corporate Communications (Europe)
  • Coriolis
  • Crazy Domains
  • Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira [es] (Lawyers)
  • CSJ Capital Partners LLP
  • Daewoo Securities (Europe)
  • Davis & Co, Solicitors
  • EUKOR Car Carriers Inc
  • ESecLending
  • European Banking Authority
  • Fiber Telecom
  • Front Capital Systems
  • GPQS
  • Haarmann Hemmelrath & Partner, Solicitors
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • IWG
  • Knight Piésold
  • Kofax
  • Majedie Investments
  • Meditor Capital Management
  • Momenta Consulting
  • Natexis Banques Populaires
  • RMG Networks
  • Oanda
  • Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Legal Services
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
  • Piraeus Bank
  • Private Dining 24
  • Project Brokers
  • R G A (UK)
  • City Social (restaurant)
  • Samsung
  • Sanders Wilkinson Krajcirovic Nikolayev & partners, Legal services
  • System Access (Europe)
  • Taylor Vinters
  • The Walpole Group
  • Tower Trading Group
  • Tower 42 Property & Estate Management
  • Tullett Prebon Information
  • Vertigo 42
  • ViewSonic

Lighting display

Torre 42, Londres, Inglaterra, 2014-08-07, DD 045
Night view showing lighting display

In June 2012, a Capix LED multi-media lighting system was installed around levels 39 to 45. This replaced the previous high-energy floodlighting at the top of the building.

The lighting system is formed of thousands of pixels mounted on a chain netting that is affixed to the surface of the building. Each pixel is formed of three RGB LED units, allowing a variety of lighting designs and colours to be displayed. The system was designed by SVM Associates and Zumtobel.

The display featured the Olympic Rings during the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Paralympic Agitos during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Ranking among London high-rise buildings

The National Westminster Tower was the tallest building in London and the United Kingdom for 10 years. At its completion in 1980, it claimed this title from the 177-metre (581 ft) 189-metre (620 ft) with antenna Post Office Tower, a transmission tower located at 60 Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia, London.

Tower 42 is now the third-tallest tower in the City of London, having been overtaken in 2010 by the 230-metre (750 ft) Heron Tower and the 225-metre (738 ft) Leadenhall Building in 2014. It is the eighth-tallest in London overall.

Records
Preceded by
Post Office Tower
Tallest Building in the United Kingdom
1980—1991
183 m (600 ft)
Succeeded by
One Canada Square
Preceded by
Post Office Tower
Tallest Building in London
1980—1991
183 m (600 ft)
Succeeded by
One Canada Square
Preceded by
Britannic House
Tallest Building in the City of London
1980—2010
183 m (600 ft)
Succeeded by
Heron Tower

Previous buildings on the site

Tower42closeup
Tower 42 viewed from directly below
  • Gresham House, built in 1563 by Sir Thomas Gresham. Gresham was a businessman who helped set up the Royal Exchange. Upon the death of his wife in 1596, Gresham House became the 'Institute for Physic, Civil Law, Music, Astronomy, Geometry and Rhetoric', as directed by Gresham's will (Sir Thomas died 17 years earlier). Professors at Gresham College, described as the Third University of England by Chief Justice Coke in 1612, included Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren and the composer John Bull. The building survived the Great Fire, and saw use as a garrison, a Guildhall and Royal exchange. The College moved to Gresham Street. Gresham House was demolished in 1768 and a new Gresham House was built in its place.
  • Crosby Hall, built in 1466 and named for its builder, the London merchant and alderman, Sir John Crosby. Its most famous occupant was King Richard III. A famous visitor was William Shakespeare. A scene of his play, Richard III, in which the future Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester, plots his route to the crown, is set in Crosby Hall.
  • Crosby Place, which was built in 1596, the year that Richard III was written.
  • Palmerston House was a building that survived from the 19th century, through both world wars. It was named after the Third Viscount Palmerston. It stood at 51-55 Broad Street. It was occupied for some time by the Cunard Steam Shipping Company.

Events

Tower 42 advert 29.01.2020
Advertisement for annual charity event at Tower 42, City of London, January, 2020

An annual fundraising event called Vertical Rush takes place inside Tower 42. It is a vertical run of 932 steps to the top of the tower.

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