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Tower 42 viewed from street level
East-facing view from Vertigo 42
Tower 42 viewed from directly below
Tower 42 is the tallest skyscraper in the City of Londonmarker and the fifth tallest in London as a whole. It was originally built for the National Westminster Bank (NatWest), hence its former name, the NatWest Tower. 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 1979, and opened in 1980, costing a total of £72 million (approximately £ today).

It is high, which made it the tallest building in the UK until the topping out of One Canada Squaremarker in Docklandsmarker in 1990. Although it remains the tallest building in the City of London, it will lose this status in late 2009, when Heron Tower has its topping out.

Construction and history

Its status as the first skyscraper in the City was a coup for the NatWest, but was extremely controversial at the time, as it was a major departure from the previous restrictions on tall buildings in London. 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. On opening, this was not a consideration — but following the Big Bang in the City, the nature of bank trading changed and the tower's design became somewhat obsolete given its lack of large trading floors. 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.

On 24 April 1993 it was damaged in the Bishopsgate bombingmarker, a Provisional Irish Republican Army truck bombing in the Bishopsgatemarker area of the City of London. The bomb extensively damaged the tower and many other buildings in the vicinity, causing over £1 billion worth of damage. 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). 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 floors. It is now a general-purpose office building occupied by a variety of companies.

In 2004, the City gained its second major skyscraper in the form of 30 St Mary Axemarker, more popularly known as the Gherkin. Its construction radically altered the London skyline. This was followed by the Broadgate Towermarker in 2008. Although Tower 42 remains the tallest of these buildings, it will lose this status later in 2009, as the 246 meter Heron Tower is under construction nearby and is rising at a rapid pace. Also, the 288m Bishopsgate Towermarker is under construction nearby. The Leadenhall Buildingmarker, 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 Towermarker , a transmission tower located at 60 Cleveland Street in Fitzroviamarker, 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.

  • 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 Exchangemarker. 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 Collegemarker, 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.
  • The City of London Club, which was founded in 1830.
  • 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.

See also


  1. Google Maps: satellite image
  2. Inspiraré
  3. Terminal Architecture, page 59, Martin Pawley, 1998, Reaktion Books (ISBN 1861890184)

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