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The Shard vs. Twentytwo: How Skyscrapers Have Changed In Just 5 Years

Climbing wall inside 22 Bishopsgate

When the Shard opened in July 2012, developer Irvine Seller outlined his vision of a “vertical city” where “London and the world will work, eat, sleep and live”.

It was a cutting-edge design, but just five years on, the conception of what a skyscraper can be and what it will comprise to attract tenants has already evolved radically.

Twentytwo, the office tower in the City of London at 22 Bishopsgate, launched earlier this week. It will not have a hotel or apartments like the Shard, but the way it has been conceived shows how even in the heart of the City’s financial district, no major building can be just offices anymore. It is designed to appeal to the mind, body and soul as well as the spreadsheet of the chief operating officer. 

More than 10% of the 1.3M SF tower, up to 150K SF according to its planning application, will be given over to amenities for the tenants and the public. The Shard was innovative, but the press release of its launch did not mention wellness or healthy eating.

“At its core, Twentytwo aims to offer choice — choice to eat healthier, choice to exercise, choice to speak to others and share experiences and choice for the occupiers in creating their own, bespoke workspaces,” according to the developers, an international consortium headed by AXA Investment Managers.

The 62-storey tower will house a fresh food market, an innovation hub, a gym, a well-being retreat and spa, a curated ‘art walk’, a business club and a cycle hub, as well as London’s highest free public viewing gallery.

“It will be the first U.K. tower to contain in excess of 100K SF of integrated amenity and social spaces, creating an inspiring, healthy and energising workplace for a vibrant and diverse business workforce of 12,000 people,” AXA said.

Some of the amenities are incredibly eye-catching, principally London’s first climbing window, installed on the inner face of the building’s external wall. It will be 125 metres from the ground and provide what will no doubt be incredible views across the City.

Just as eye-catching in terms of the way major office towers are heading is the assertion that it will be the first U.K. core and shell building to apply for the International WELL Building Institute WELL Building Standard.

It remains to be seen whether all of this will be enough to fill up more than 1M SF of speculative office space as London's office market is in the grip of Brexit uncertainty. But it seems safe to say that it will never again be enough to build your office tower with a fancy lobby at the bottom and a nice restaurant at the top.