London landmarks are named after many things. Battles; people; long dead villages; large, grey land mammals with elongated noses.
There’s no obvious reason, therefore, why we shouldn’t name a skyscraper after one of the world’s leading cloud-based customer relationship management systems. And yet, would you believe it, there are those who object?
At the moment, the 46-storey skyscraper at 110 Bishopsgate is known as the Heron Tower. But the aforementioned Salesforce.com is its major occupier, and – in recognition of the momentousness of the firm’s arrival – it was agreed as part of its leasing agreement that the tower would revel in the new name of the Salesforce Tower London. The tower’s owners have thus applied to the City Corporation to rename it; the decision will be name on Thursday.
Not everyone is that keen on this idea, however, and on Monday opponents launched a campaign against the move, thundering that the change of name was being “driven by purely commercial interests”. What’s more, they added, it’ll “set a dangerous precedent, opening the floodgates to other buildings being re-badged with ridiculous names”. This in contrast to other, entirely un-ridiculous names for skyscrapers, such as “Gherkin”, “Walkie-Talkie” and “Lady Shave”.
Naming a landmark building after a sales administration system is, certainly, a bit on the icky side – but it’s not quite the departure from current practice that the petitioners might have you believe. The tower now known as the Gherkin was originally named the Swiss Re building, after an insurance firm; Tower 42 was once the NatWest Tower, after a bank. Further west you’ll find the BT Tower; that previously revelled in the name of the Post Office Tower, which was more public sector, but no less corporate. Further East, you’ll find skyscrapers labelled Barclays and HSBC. The idea of naming buildings, even landmark ones, after commercial interests is old hat.
There’s another reason for renaming the Heron Tower: the name isn’t unique. There’s a Heron Plaza next door; up the road, near the Barbican, there’s residential development called the Heron, too. The reason they all share this name is that they’re all named after the same property development firm, Heron International.
In other words, the real problem isn’t that the renaming is being “driven by commercial interests” at all: the existing name was driven by commercial interests, too. The real problem is that the name those interests are driving us to is so ugly.
That, though, is a very difficult case to make. So, it seems likely, London will be blessed with its own Salesforce Tower very soon. It might at least boost our KPIs, I suppose. Always be closing, that’s our motto.
Picture of the Heron Tower courtesy of Kingsimmy on Flickr, re-used under creative commons.This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.