Tower 42

For the tower in Birmingham, see 103 Colmore Row.
Tower 42

Tower 42 is the third-tallest building in the City of London
Former names NatWest Tower; International Financial Centre
General information
Type Commercial
Location London, EC2
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′55″N 0°05′02″W / 51.51528°N 0.08389°W / 51.51528; -0.08389Coordinates: 51°30′55″N 0°05′02″W / 51.51528°N 0.08389°W / 51.51528; -0.08389
Construction started 1971
Completed 1980
Roof 183 metres (600 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 47
Lifts/elevators 21
Design and construction
Architect R Siefert & Partners
Structural engineer Pell Frischmann
Main contractor John Mowlem & Co Ltd

Tower 42 is the third-tallest skyscraper in the City of London and the eighth tallest in Greater London.[1] Its original name was the NatWest Tower, having been built to house NatWest's international headquarters. It is still commonly referred to as the NatWest Tower. Seen from above, the shape of the tower resembles that of the NatWest logo (three chevrons in a hexagonal arrangement).[2]

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 June 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II.[3]

The construction cost was £72 million (approximately £278 million today).[4] It is 183 metres (600 ft) high, which made it the tallest building in the United Kingdom until the topping out of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1990. It held the status of tallest building in the City of London for 30 years, until it was surpassed by the Heron Tower in December 2009.

The building today is multi-tenanted and comprises Grade A office space and restaurant facilities, with one restaurant situated on the 24th floor, and the other, a champagne and seafood bar, on the 42nd floor.[5] In 2011 it was bought by the South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for £282.5 million.[6]


Design and development

The tower's shape has been compared to that of the logo for NatWest, although its architect Richard Seifert always denied the similarity.[7][8]
Simplified plan and dimetric projection showing the shape of the top of Tower 42.

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 137 m (450 ft); this developed into a design with a 197 m (647 ft) tower as its centrepiece, proposed in 1964 by architect Richard Seifert. The plan attracted opposition, partly because of the unprecedented height of the design and partly 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. Seifert, who had developed a reputation for overcoming planning objections, organised an exhibition in which he presented two alternative visions: his preferred design, and a second design featuring a 500 ft tower with an "absurdly squat" second tower alongside. Visitors were invited to vote and overwhelmingly chose the single tower design.[9] The final design preserved the Gibson banking hall and the tower's height was reduced to 183 m (600 ft).


An annual fundraising event called Vertical Rush takes place inside Tower 42. It is a vertical run of 932 steps to the top of the tower. [10] [11] [12] [13]


In the background of this picture the NatWest Tower is seen under construction. View from Bank junction, c. 1974.

Demolition of the site commenced in 1970 and the tower was completed in 1980. The building was constructed by John Mowlem & Co[14] 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 the 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 lack of 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. Double decked elevators and sky lobbies were both new to the UK at the time. Other innovative features included an internal automated "mail train" used for mail deliveries and document distribution; an automated external window washing system; and computer controlled air conditioning. The tower also had its own telephone exchange in one of the basement levels – this area was decorated with panoramic photographs of the London skyline, creating the illusion of being above ground.[15]

Fire suppression design features included pressurised stairwells, smoke venting and fire retardant floor barriers. However, at the time of design, fire sprinkler systems were not mandatory in the UK and so were not installed.[15] It was this omission, coupled with a fire in the tower during the 1996 refurbishment, that prompted the Greater London Council to amend its fire regulations and require sprinkler installations at all buildings.[16]

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.


Following Nat West's refurbishment of the Tower, the bank renamed it the International Finance Centre, in 1997.[17] The building was subsequently acquired by Hermes Real Estate and BlackRock's UK property fund in 1998 for GB£226 million.[18] In 2010 they put the property on the market at an expected price of GB£300 million. This would potentially have been the largest single commercial property sale in the City of London in 2010.[19] In July 2010 it was reported that Chinese Estates Group had entered exclusive discussions to buy Tower 42.[20] but this deal did not conclude and it was sold in 2011 to the South African businessman Nathan Kirsh for £282.5 million.[6]


NatWest occupation

National Westminster Tower entrance forecourt in 1981.
The NatWest Tower's viewing gallery at Level 42, as seen in 1981. This area is now in use as the Vertigo 42 champagne bar.

Upon completion, the tower was occupied by a large part of NatWest's International Division. The upper floors were occupied by the division's executive management, marketing, and regional offices, moving from various locations in the City of London. The lower floors were occupied by NatWest's Overseas Branch, moving from its previous location at 52/53 Threadneedle Street.

The full floor configuration was as follows:

Floors Configuration Occupants
unnamed Core only Plant floor
unnamed Core only Plant floor
42 Core and cantilever (1 leaf) Viewing Gallery
41 Core and cantilever (1 leaf) Corporate hospitality suite
39 - 40 Core and cantilever (2 leaves) Corporate hospitality rooms and kitchens
37 - 38 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Executive Management
36 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Planning & Projects; Subsidiaries & Affiliates; Administration
35 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Advances; Marketing & Co-ordination
34 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) United Kingdom Region
33 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Corporate Financial Services; staff restaurant
32 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Corporate Financial Services
31 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Plant floor
29 - 30 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Corporate Financial Services
28 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Asia & Australasia Region
27 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Latin America Region; staff restaurant
26 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Africa & Middle East Region; Eastern Europe & Scandinavia Region
25 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Northern Europe Region; Southern Europe Region
24 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Treasurer's Department; Correspondent Bank Relationships
23 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Financial Control Department
22 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Plant floor
21 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) North America Representative Office
20 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Personnel Department
19 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch - Management
14 - 18 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch - International Trade & Banking Services
13 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Plant floor
12 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Mail & Translations
9 - 11 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch - Accounting
8 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch - Payments Abroad
5 - 7 Core and cantilever (3 leaves) Overseas Branch - Inland Payments
4 Core and cantilever (2 leaves) Staff restaurant
3 Core and cantilever (2 leaves) Maintenance, services
1 - 2 Core and cantilever (1 leaf) Maintenance, telephony, services
Podium Core and entrance structure Building control centre
Mezzanine Core and entrance structure Upper entrance lobby & lifts
Ground Core and entrance structure Lower entrance lobby & lifts

The adjacent annexe building at 27 Old Broad Street was occupied by NatWest's Overseas Branch cashiers and foreign notes and coin dealing operation.

1993 bombing and refurbishment

In 1993, NatWest had planned a major premises relocation that would have seen the International Banking Division move from the tower and be replaced with its Domestic Banking Division, enabling the bank to terminate its lease of the Drapers Gardens tower. These plans had to be abandoned after the tower was damaged in the April 1993 Bishopsgate bombing, a Provisional Irish Republican Army truck bombing in the Bishopsgate area of the City of London. The bomb killed one person and extensively damaged the tower and many other buildings in the vicinity, causing a total of over £1 billion worth of damage to the area.[21] The tower suffered severe damage and had to be entirely reclad and internally refurbished at a cost of £75 million.[22] (Demolition was considered, but would have been too difficult and expensive.)[23] The external re-clad was carried out by Alternative Access Logistics 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.[24] On 17 January 1996, during the repairs and possibly from the welding being undertaken, a fire started at the top of the building.[25] 500 workmen were evacuated and smoke was seen coming out of the top of the building.[25] A helicopter using thermal imaging equipment pinpointed the source of the fire, which was on the 45th floor in a glass fibre cooling tower.[25] After refurbishment, NatWest decided not to re-occupy and renamed the building the International Financial Centre, then sold it.

Current occupation

East-facing view from Vertigo 42

Previous owners, UK property company Greycoat, renamed it Tower 42 in 1995, in reference to its 42 cantilevered floors. It is now a general-purpose office building occupied by a variety of companies.[26]

Current tenants of the building include:

  • Adjusting Services International Limited - ASi
  • Avaya Technologies
  • Boston Technologies, Inc.[27]
  • CEBS Secretariat[28]
  • City Osteopath Clinics[29]
  • Corporate Communications (Europe)[30]
  • Coriolis
  • Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira (Lawyers)
  • CSJ Capital Partners LLP
  • Daewoo Securities (Europe)
  • Davis & Co, Solicitors
  • EUKOR Car Carriers Inc
  • European Banking Authority
  • Front Capital Systems
  • GPQS
  • Haarmann Hemmelrath & Partner, Solicitors
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Knight Piésold
  • Kofax
  • Majedie Investments
  • Meditor Capital Management
  • Momenta Consulting
  • Natexis Banques Populaires
  • Regus
  • RMG Networks
  • Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Legal Services
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
  • Piraeus Bank[31]
  • Private Dining 24
  • Project Brokers[32]
  • R G A (UK)
  • City Social (restaurant)
  • Samsung
  • System Access (Europe)
  • Taylor Vinters
  • Tower Trading Group
  • Tower 42 Property & Estate Management
  • Telemetry[33]
  • Vertigo 42
  • ViewSonic

Lighting display

Night view showing lighting display

In June 2012, a Capix LED multi media lighting system was installed around levels 39 to 45. This replaced the previous high energy floodlighting at the top of the building.[34]

The lighting system is formed of thousands of pixels mounted on a chain netting that is affixed to the surface of the building. Each pixel is formed of three RGB LED units, allowing a variety of lighting designs and colours to be displayed.[35] The system was designed by SVM Associates and Zumtobel.

The display featured the Olympic Rings during the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Paralympic Agitos during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Ranking among London high rise buildings

The National Westminster Tower was the tallest building in London and the United Kingdom for 10 years. At its completion in 1980, it claimed this title from the 175 m (574 ft) Post Office Tower, a transmission tower located at 60 Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia, London.

Tower 42 is now the third-tallest tower in the City of London, having been overtaken in 2010 by the 230 m (755 ft) Heron Tower and the 225 m Leadenhall Building in 2014. It is the eighth tallest in London overall.[36]

Preceded by
Post Office Tower
Tallest Building in the United Kingdom
183 m (600 ft)
Succeeded by
One Canada Square
Preceded by
Post Office Tower
Tallest Building in London
183 m (600 ft)
Succeeded by
One Canada Square
Preceded by
Britannic House
Tallest Building in the City of London
183 m (600 ft)
Succeeded by
Heron Tower

Previous buildings on the site

Tower 42 viewed from directly below

See also


  1. "existing | Buildings". Emporis. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  2. Hibbert, Christopher; Weinreb, Ben; Keay, John; Keay, Julia (2011). The London Encyclopaedia (3rd ed.). Pan Macmillan. p. 574. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  3. "''Glasgow Herald'', June 12, 1981, p1". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  4. UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  5. 1 2 "South African tycoon Nathan Kirsh buys Tower 42" Daily Telegraph 21 December 2011 Retrieved 21 December 2011
  6. "The Notorious Work of Richard Seifert". Retrieved 21 August 2014. (subscription required)
  7. London's Growing Up!: NLA Insight Study (PDF). NLA — London’s Centre for the Built Environment. 2014. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-9927189-1-6. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  8. "Richard Seifert". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 October 2001.
  13. Mowlem dives into the red Evening Standard, 4 February 2005
  14. 1 2 "Building innovation reaches the sky", New Scientist, 18 January 1979
  15. "Tower 42 and Section 20 London Building Act", Gary Fells, Scott White and Hookins Press Release, 29 June 2010
  16. "NatWest could sell tower". The Independent. 23 March 1998. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  17. Goodway, Nick (15 April 2010). "Outdated and second best, its time for the fall of Tower 42". Evening Standard. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  18. "Tower 42 skyscraper on market for £300m - Business - Evening Standard". 13 April 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  19. Marion Dakers (5 July 2010). "Chinese firm in exclusive talks to acquire Tower 42 | City A.M". City A.M. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  20. De Baróid, Ciarán (2000). Ballymurphy and the Irish War. Pluto Press. p. 325. ISBN 0-7453-1509-7.
  21. Nick Goodway (15 April 2010). "Outdated and second best, its time for the fall of Tower 42 - Analysis & Features - Business - Evening Standard". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  22. Terminal Architecture, page 59, Martin Pawley, 1998, Reaktion Books (ISBN 1861890184)
  23. "The Natwest Tower, London - Multi-deck space frame system". Alternative Access Logistics Ltd. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  24. 1 2 3 "500 workmen escape NatWest Tower blaze", The Independent, 18 January 1996. Retrieved 19 September 2010
  25. "Shops on Old Broad Street, EC2N". London Online. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  26. "Boston Technologies website". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  27. "CEBS Secretariat Offices London - Handbook for visitors" (PDF). Committee of European Banking Supervisors. p. 2. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  28. "City Osteopath Clinics". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  29. "Corporate Communications - Contact". Corporate Communications (Europe) Limited. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  30. "Piraeus Bank website". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  31. "Project Brokers website". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  32. "Telemetry website". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  35. "Home | CTBUH Skyscraper Center". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  36. "BBC - h2g2 - Tower 42 - A21605915".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tower 42.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.