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Shard vs Cheesegrater: the 5 tallest buildings in the UK

9th September 2015 by Anthony Lane

When you think of British architecture, you probably think of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and other beautiful, historic buildings. After all, the UK isn’t known for its skyscrapers, so it’s easy to forget that we have some pretty tall structures on our tiny island – and not only in London, either. Whether you think they live up to the high aesthetic standards of our Victorian masterpieces is a matter of opinion of course…

5. The Leadenhall Building, a.k.a. the Cheesegrater

Standing a whopping 225m (that’s 738 feet) tall, the Cheesegrater is one of the defining shapes in the City of London skyline. You don’t have to look at it for long to see where its nickname comes from – its distinctive wedge shape is certainly unusual. Costing approximately £286 million, this giant is also the 23rd tallest building in Europe. And with 4 floors below ground, it also has the deepest basement of any building on this list.

4. Heron Tower

Considering its shaky foundations, it’s a minor miracle that this building even exists, let alone makes it onto this list. Originally planned to reach a measly 183m in height, this skyscraper was at the centre of a good deal of controversy because of its proximity to St Paul’s Cathedral. The go-ahead was finally given in 2002 by deputy PM John Prescott, in spite of much opposition. Three years later, and still waiting for construction to begin, new plans were submitted to extend the height of the building to its current 230m (755 feet). Best of all, with a cool name like Heron Tower, it doesn’t even need a passive-aggressive nickname (see above).

3. One Canada Square a.k.a. Canary Wharf

From its opening in 1991 until 2009, One Canada Square was Britain’s tallest skyscraper, and the new icon of London’s regenerated Docklands district. Often (incorrectly) referred to as Canary Wharf, this building’s distinctive pyramid pinnacle reaches 235m into the heavens. That’s 770 feet, 50 floors and 3,960 triple-glazed windows. But our favourite part of this behemoth is the futuristic automatic window cleaning system. Running along rails on the sides of the building, the automatic window washer requires 426,000 gallons of water to clean the entire tower, but only 2.6 seconds to clean a single window. Spare a thought for the poor folks who have to manually wash the pyramid at the top where the automatic system can’t operate…

2. The Shard

The newest kid on the block, the Shard is also the most eye-catching and controversial feature in London’s upwardly-mobile skyline. Standing a giddy 309m tall (1,016 feet), the Shard is the 4th highest building in Europe, and 92nd tallest building in the world. At an estimated £435 million cost, largely paid for by the state of Qatar, this building is almost a mini-city in its own right. Home to Al Jazeera offices, Warwick Business School, as well as lots of restaurants, hotels and private residences, this feat of engineering is topped off with an observatory offering unmatched panoramas of the capital. But even that wasn’t good enough for one man. Dan Witchalls spent a night sneaking past security guards so he could BASE JUMP from the roof. He even made a video of it

1. Emley Moor Transmitting Station

I bet you weren’t expecting a transmission tower in Yorkshire from 1971 to be the tallest building in the UK were you? But it’s true. Stretching up a vertiginous 330m or 1,084 feet high, there’s a room at the top which takes 7 minutes to reach by lift. Once you get there, the views stretch out for some 40 miles around. From Greater Manchester to Scarborough, more than 1.5 million people rely on this mast for TV and radio transmission. But the most surprising fact about this tower is that it’s a replacement for an earlier, taller tower! The predecessor transmitter was 1,266 feet high before it collapsed under the strain of ice and wind in March 1969, leaving the region without ITV for 4 whole days. The Coronation Street cold-turnkey must have been unbearable…