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What’s Hot? 70 St Mary Axe, HS2, M4 Smart Motorway

Here’s our pick of what’s hot right now and under the spotlight in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction arena!

70 St Mary Axe – just finished!

This new emblematic building is now open for business in Central London. Its official name is ’70 St Mary Axe’, although most commonly known as ‘the can of ham’ due to its particular shape. The 22-storey tower is 90m high and contains 28,000 square metres of office space.


Foggo Associates are the designers of this memorable building. With its distinctive curved shape evoking comparison with a certain porcine product, its creators had a clear purpose in mind – “We wanted to give back space to the public realm around the base of the building and for the building to appear less sheer on the principal elevations on Bevis Marks and Houndsditch”, said David Warrender, Director at Foggo Associates. Thanks to this innovative shape, the architects managed to reduce the footprint of the building at its lower floors, thus creating more public space around it.

The project construction started in May 2015, and it has just opened to the public. Built by construction company Mace with a budget of £135m for TH Real State, its curves and uninterrupted floor plans have already captivated many people. Its inspirational curves are certainly worth a visit if you’re out and about in Central London anytime soon! For more information about the project you can visit the official website.

HS2 – hotter than ever

Just about everybody in the engineering sphere has an eye on HS2. The controversial project is currently under review by an independent panel to assess its viability. Phase 1, linking London and Birmingham, will reduce travel times from 1 hour 21 minutes to 49 minutes. One of the main reasons that triggered the project review was a concern about a spiral of increasing costs.

The estimated cost back in 2015 was £56bn for the entire project, including Phases 1 and 2. However, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, has recently published a written statement where he confirms a revised HS2 cost of between £72 to £78 billion in 2015 prices, equivalent to £81 to £88 billion in 2019 prices. Due to this fact, a cost-saving initiative to finish the project at Old Oak Common station has been proposed. This would remove the final section of HS2 to Euston station in London. However, Transport for London has already warned that this option would have ‘very serious and unacceptable implications’ for Crossrail.


The independent review was scheduled to be finished in Autumn this year. It seems, however, that other pressing issues like Brexit have contributed to a potential delay until December.

Of course, HS2’s proponents have been quick to state that the project’s benefits are not simply to shorten the journey time between London and Birmingham. The new railway line will also increase capacity on current rail tracks for additional slow trains and freight transport. The latter may potentially have an even larger positive impact on the UK’s economy. Whichever the case, it seems that we will have to wait a little longer until the result of the review is published. For now, you can keep up-to-date on matters via the HS2 website.

M4 Smart Motorway – 1 bridge down, 10 more to go!

Over the weekend of 27-29th September, Highways England demolished the first of 11 bridges to accommodate the new M4 Smart Motorway. The £848m scheme will upgrade the existing 3-lane carriageways to 4-lanes over 54kms between Junctions 3 and 12. This will help to reduce journey times and increase journey reliability whilst maintaining safety.


As part of the works, it will be necessary to demolish and widen 11 bridges throughout the scheme. Recreation Ground bridge was the first to be be demolished. The bridge linked Datchet Road near Windsor to Upton Court Park in Slough. The demolition took place successfully on the Saturday morning, ahead of schedule. Thanks to this, Highways England was able to re-open the motorway one day ahead of schedule, minimising commuter disruption. The video below shows a time-lapse of the demolition works, we think it’s rather impressive!

Many construction activities have already finished between Junctions 8/9 and 10. Other works are progressing between Junctions 10 and 12 as planned. Construction will soon start on the Eastern end of the scheme, around Junction 4. If everything goes to plan, the project will open to the public in March 2022. You can check out more details on Highways England’s official website.

Keep up to date on these and other hot AEC projects in the GlobalCAD blog and don’t forget to share with us the projects that inspire your passion for design!

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