Tower 42
Tower 42 is the second tallest (although still the tallest completed) skyscraper in the City of London and the sixth tallest in London as a whole. The original name was the National Westminster Tower, having been built to house the National Westminster Bank's International Division. Seen from above, the tower closely resembles 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. It was built by John Mowlem & Co between 1971 and 1980, first occupied in 1980, and formally opened on 11 July 1981 by HM Queen Elizabeth II. The construction cost was £72 million (approximately £230 million today). . It is 183 metres (600 ft) high, which made it the tallest building in the UK until the topping out of One Canada Square in Docklands in 1990. It held the status of tallest building in the City of London for 30 years, but lost the title to the Heron Tower in December 2009. Heron Tower will top out at 246m.


Construction and Design
The National Westminster Tower's status as the first skyscraper in the City was a coup for NatWest, but was extremely controversial at the time, as it was a major departure from the previous restrictions on tall buildings in London. The original concept dates back to the early 1960s, predating the formation of the National Westminster Bank. The site was then the headquarters of the National Provincial Bank, with offices in Old Broad Street backing onto its flagship branch at 15 Bishopsgate. Early designs envisaged a tower of 137m (450ft); this developed into a design with a 197m (647ft) tower as its centrepiece, proposed in 1964 by architect Colonel Richard Seifert. The plan attracted opposition, particularly because of the proposed demolition of the 19th century bank building at 15 Bishopsgate, which dated from 1865 and was designed by architect John Gibson. The final design preserved the Gibson banking hall and the tower's height was reduced to 183m (600ft). Demolition of the site commenced in 1970 and the tower was completed in 1980. The building is constructed 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, when there was a lesser requirement for large trading floors, the bank decided not to locate its foreign exchange and money market trading operation ("World Money Centre") into the tower. This 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 insufficient space in the tower. Innovative features in the design included double-decked elevators, which provide an express service between the ground/mezzanine levels and the sky lobbies at levels 23 and 24. Both the concept of double decked elevators and sky lobbies were new to the UK at the time. Other innovative features included an internal automated "mail train" used for mail deliveries and document distribution; and an automated external window washing system. 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.

NatWest occupation
Upon completion, the tower was occupied by a large part of NatWest's International Division. The floor configuration was as follows:
Floors Configuration Occupants Core only Plant floor The tower suffered severe damage and had to be entirely reclad and internally refurbished. (Demolition was considered, but would have been too difficult and expensive.) The external re-clad was carried out by Alternative Access 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. After refurbishment, NatWest decided not to re-occupy and renamed the building the International Financial Centre, then sold it. The new owners, UK property company Greycoat, renamed it Tower 42, in reference to its 42 cantilevered floors. It is now a general-purpose office building occupied by a variety of companies.

Other City of London high rise buildings
Tower 42 is now the second tallest tower in the City of London, having been overtaken in 2009 by the 246 meter Heron Tower. Other additions to the City skyline include 30 St Mary Axe in 2004, more popularly known as the Gherkin, followed followed by the Broadgate Tower in 2008. Also, the 288m Bishopsgate Tower is under construction nearby. The Leadenhall Building, 225m tall, is currently on hold due to the economic downturn.

General information
  • Tower 42 was the tallest building in London and the United Kingdom for 10 years. At its completion in 1980, it claimed this title from the BT Tower 175 m (574 ft), a transmission tower located at 60 Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia, London.
  • Tower 42 contains two restaurants: Rhodes Twenty Four, which is situated on the 24th floor and operated by renowned chef Gary Rhodes; and Vertigo 42, an exclusive champagne and seafood bar located on the 42nd floor.
  • The tower is shown in the sequences leading up to the destruction of the Earth in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy leading to unfounded speculation that the name links to the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
  • The fourth Top Gear race ended at Vertigo 42, with Jeremy Clarkson at least appearing to just beat Richard Hammond and James May. Clarkson took a Bugatti Veyron and May & Hammond a private Cessna 182 from Alba, near Turin.
  • Originally, there were going to be two Natwest Towers side by side, both 700ft in height. When it was decided that only one tower would be built, the height was reduced to 600ft.

Previous buildings on the site
  • 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). Students 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 after local politician Sir John Crosby. One of its famous visitors was King Richard III, and another was William Shakespeare. The Bard set a scene of Richard III where the Duke of Gloucester plotted his route to the crown 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.


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