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Porkitecture: "Can Of Ham" To Join London's Commercial Banquet

It goes without saying that everything in the world is improved by adding bacon to it. But what about ham?

Foggo Associates' proposal for 60–70 St. Mary Axe, the distinctive skyscraper — better known by its culinary nickname, the "Can of Ham" — is back on after a six-year hiatus due to the financial crisis of 2008. Featuring a distinctive curved profile reminiscent of classic brands of tinned meat, , is set to rise in the City of London alongside its delectable siblings, Norman Foster's Gherkin and the Cheesegrater by Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners.

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You would be forgiven for getting fed up with the media applying nicknames to every new high-rise building in the UK’s capital – but this time we should be forgiven, because even the architects behind this scheme have adopted this particularly delicious moniker on their own website.

Foggo Associates – the firm established by the late Peter Foggo, a former director at Arup – will now see this key project come to fruition, funded by developers TIAA Henderson Real Estate for a cool £100 million. The substantial mix-used building will incorporate 26,000 square meters of office space, along with retail at ground level – where they will no doubt be selling a premium range of meats to bankers at quite astronomical prices. No Spam here!

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It is tempting to write off this latest high-rise office building as another architectural cliché – there has been a viral propagation of novelty silhouettes in the corporate heart of London recently, and Foggo’s gargantuan oval appears as a blatant continuation this trend. However, the architects have pre-empted such accusations, justifying the proposal as follows:

“The height and form of the building have been developed to create a distinctive form in response to strategic local views. Vertical shading fins to the curved facades and glazed double wall cladding to the end elevations reduce solar heat gains to the office space. Other low energy measures, such as borehole thermal energy storage and energy piles, result in a design with very low carbon emissions."

The features pertaining to energy conservation are admirable, and fall in line with high-tech systems found in the majority of the City of London’s newest additions.

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However, one cannot help feel wary of the resultant aesthetic qualities of this monolithic structure: the densely packed vertical louvers wrapping up and around the building’s exterior have more than a passing resemblance to Rafael Viñoly’s ‘Walkie-Talkie’ skyscraper, the subject of much criticism upon its recent completion just to the south of the city's burgeoning tower cluster.

As with the other object-shaped towers in the vicinity, the issue of scale is a prominent one. As each commercial giant rises, the design of the public realm at ground level becomes ever more crucial, in order to avoid pedestrians beginning to feel like ants crawling across a chessboard full of glittering knights, towering rooks and corporate pawns.

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Foggo Associates have committed to ‘public realm enhancements’, but it remains to be seen exactly what this entails. The developers could do worse than to look at Richard Rogers’ nearby Leadenhall Building for inspiration — the Cheesegrater includes integrated public spaces that fold right into the heart of the building.

60–70 St. Mary Axe represents a sturdy — if not altogether finessed — addition to London’s quickly evolving skyline. Its extraordinary depth lacks the elegance of its neighbors, but due to its more conservative height, it looks set to avoid the overpowering, unseemly impact of the Walkie-Talkie.

The Can of Ham has been waiting patiently on the shelf at London’s architectural dinner party for six long years: Now the slightly overweight, less sophisticated cousin of Foster’s Gherkin looks set for an invite to this city’s banquet table.

As for me, I'm off to fry up some bacon…

Yours appetizingly,

The Angry Architect

All images via Architizer