Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed Heron Tower may become Salesforce Tower London
A decision is due this week as to whether the KPF-designed Heron Tower in the City of London will be rebranded as the Salesforce Tower London. The move was announced by cloud computing firm Salesforce.com as a ‘strategic investment’ in late May, stirring up much debate about the sponsorship and subsequent renaming of landmark towers.
The crux of the argument seems to be the effect that the rebranding of a major commercial tower can have on other tenants. The BBC spoke to the CEO of Powa Technologies, a tenant of the Heron Tower and potential competitor for Salesforce.com, Dan Wagner.
He explained: “We bought into the Heron Tower, a landmark in the City of London, and we had no idea the landlord might change the name to a sponsor’s name. The idea that any major landmark in the City of London can be bought or sold by an advertiser - just imagine McDonalds Gherkin or Black and Decker Shard - I find that idea abhorrent and I’m sure that many people will feel the same.”
It is not only those directly affected by the renaming of the Heron Tower that have taken offence to the suggestion. Tom Sleigh, Councillor for Bishopsgate - City of London, penned a damning article for City AM shortly after the announcement in which he called the notion ‘tone-deaf to Londoners’, stating that ‘it looks like the skyline is up for sale’.
After an articulate analysis of the wider implications for the move, Sleigh concludes: “My concern with the ‘Salesforce Tower’ is that it is indicative of a jumbled approach, when London needs a clear vision, not detached from what people want.”
Many of the recognisable skyscrapers in the City of London have been jovially adopted by the public who delight in giving them nicknames. The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) is possibly the most obvious, but the Cheesegrater (122 Leadenhall Street) and the Walkie Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street) are both nearing completion. This practice is so ingrained in the City’s fabric that developer British Land was able to trick a multitude of people on April Fool’s Day by releasing ‘The Slice of Bread’ tower, sandwiched between the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.
The Heron Tower was not given its title by the public but inherited it from property investment and development company Heron International. Whilst this provides scope for sponsorship by an external company - such as Salesforce.com - it will also be a tricky term to shake, having been rooted in the heart of London since the tower completed in 2011.
This is not only a question for the City of London. We asked our US Correspondent Sharon McHugh - who is also a practicing architect at ikon.5 in New Jersey - for her thoughts on the issue:
“Branding is big business and in a tough economy naming rights for buildings can help to get great architecture realized and financed. Whilst this is a good thing, we must also realize that buildings are part of the public realm and that they contribute to a city’s or town’s sense of place and identity. I think we have a civic responsibility to make the identity of buildings legible and enduring.
“When the name of a building changes, that building’s identity becomes fleeting rather than enduring and the building becomes less recognizable for tourists and visitors. Buildings also lose some meaning when they undergo name changes.
“Take for example the naming of sports teams in America. The Utah Jazz professional basketball franchise originated in New Orleans, where there is a rich history of jazz music. But with the team’s move to Utah, the name jazz makes little sense and says little about its new home. The same can be said for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, which originated in Minneapolis, where there is an abundance of lakes.
“Whilst naming rights might be good for building owners and operators, I’m not sure they are equally good for cities and their identities. We should not forget the valuable lessons of town planning as it concerns building and place identity that have been passed on to us by such people as Gordon Cullen, Kevin Lynch, Leonardo Benevolo and Camillo Sitte. These lessons are still relevant today.”
What are your thoughts on the issue of landmark sponsorship? Have you been a tenant in a rebranded building or do you work for a firm in a self-titled tower? Let us know your position in the ‘Your Comments’ section to the left.