The tallest tower in Stratford is either slightly late, or very late, depending on how you calculate it.

It was due to have the lower level hotel open in time for the Olympics, but that never happened, then the building was redesigned and due to open late last year, but they are still polishing the interiors.

As it’s the London Festival of Architecture, there was a chance to see the building in its final fit-out stages, with exhortations not to take photos of the unfinished bits.

What could have been just another luxury tower has however been made a bit more interesting by the use of clever engineering to create seemingly impossibly large cut-outs in the tower, which are used as open air roof gardens.

Apart from the amenity for the residents, it also makes the building a bit more interesting to look at for the considerably larger population who will have to look at it from the outside. Also the use of zig-zag glass walls gives the skin of the building a broken up effect rather than a tediously sheer flat glass wall.

The building, when finished, will be a mix of hotel, restaurant and double-height “loft” apartments. All sharing a single entrance, as the developer says this creates a more vibrant atmosphere. It also cuts down on operating costs if you share one entrance, which I am sure was not a consideration at all.

Although at the moment, those who have moved in early are using what will eventually become the back-door.

A tour group was whisked up to the 10th floor to drop off bags and get that important first glimpse of luxury living before an ear-popping zoom right up to the top floor to have a look at a penthouse apartment.

It’s genuinely an impressive space, going in and then down a small flight of stairs to the living room with its double-height windows and of course, views for miles.

A few details that appealed, such as the Juliet balcony which is quite rare these days in tall towers, leaving me sometimes feeling that high-up living lacks a connection with the outside world. At least here, the fresh air can blow in.

I also liked the very reflective wall on the small kitchen space — if you’ve got a view, seems a pity to not see it when chopping onions. Although the size of the kitchen does suggest a resident is more likely to eat out a lot.

Just below is the Japanese inspired roof garden, with very high and reassuringly solidly built glass walls around the edges. It was also very noticeable how effective they are at blocking noise, and if you stand on a bench and peer over and the noise from the outside world suddenly intrudes.

A few floors down and into more conventional apartments. Still double-height, one of the nice touches — and one that more flats should do, is that the inner wall between the living room and bedroom is a wall of storage cupboards. So it’s very thick as walls go, but also very useful.

A one-bed flat starts from £2,200 per month, which gives you an idea of the customer base they are aiming at, with lots of “lifestyle” services on offer for the sort of person who earns enough to pay that level of rent.

Most of the flats are rented – not sold.

Up here is also the cut-out. This is the pretty dramatic roof garden space which we were asked to be careful in photographing, as there was lots of scaffolding up where they were still finishing off the wood paneling and fit-out.

It’s a deceptively large space, and the lack of the pillars that would normally be needed to hold up the rest of the building is quite remarkable engineering. Thanks to that though, you can look outwards and almost forget that there’s half a tower block above your head. It really does feel like a roof garden.

The tour didn’t go into much detail about the engineering, which was a pity, but we did get to see it on display a few floors up.

Depending on personal tastes, these flats are much more interesting — as they’ve left the exposed concrete untouched along some walls and the ceiling, and here you can see the massive cross-bracing needed to create the cut-out space below.

Given a winning lottery ticket, these would be the flats I would choose over the flats higher up which are so polished that I feel that a spec of dust would be lonely. I like a bit of roughness.

These public tours often focus more on the luxury lifestyle, while I feel it would be more interesting for the average joe to learn more about structural engineering, which I often get on building site visits.

Frankly, being told about the fabulous lifestyle of the rich will never compare to being told about concrete and steel engineering.

At least for this correspondent anyway.

The building, designed by SOM is structurally impressive though, and the cut-out garden space sufficiently wow-inducing that hopefully they’ll be included in future Open House Weekends.

The views are pretty good as well.


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  1. Annie says:

    Wow – love the architecture but my fear of heights would prevent me from living up there, I’d feel too exposed!

  2. JP says:

    Too true, more of how it’s made and manages to stay upright (without the use of sky-hooks [or tartan paint for that matter]) would make the sacchari e agent speak at least tolerable in these monuments to mankind’s manufacturing.

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