Client: Trafalgar House
Property Limited, part of Kvaerner ASA
PR Team: In-House(Kvaerner Corporate Communications)
Campaign: Press conference to unveil the proposal for the London
Time: 9 September, 1996
Budget: pounds 75,000
On the 9 September proposals for the London Millennium Tower were
announced at a press conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference
Centre. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the proposed Millennium Tower
consists of a 92-storey office tower on the site of the Baltic Exchange,
which was badly damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992.
At 1,265ft, the building would be the tallest in Europe, with 1.5
million sq ft of usable space for offices, dealing floors, apartments,
restaurants, cafes and gardens as well as a proposed public viewing
Funding for the building is to be raised from external investors and an
anchor tenant, who has already agreed to lease in excess of 600,000 sq
To generate debate on the London Millennium Tower project, prior to
submission of a planning application to the London Corporation.
A total of 120 journalists and 12 TV crews were invited to the press
conference at very short notice, the intention being to add an air of
mystery to the event. Consequently journalists arrived without the
benefit of a pre-briefing or prepared questions.
The conference took the form of a slide presentation, hosted by Sir
Norman Foster who explained the rationale behind the scheme.
According to Paul Emberley, head of corporate communications at
Kvaerner, Sir Norman Foster’s ‘personal influence’ and his reputation
for designing ‘landmark’ buildings played a major part in his company
winning the contract.
At the conference Foster described the project as ‘following in
historical tradition’ adding that its ‘elegantly slim’ form would make
it ‘more subtle’ than ‘yet another boring, four-square imposition’.
Following the conference the press were taken to the Baltic Exchange
site, a listed building which will have to be demolished if the
Millennium Tower is to be constructed.
The press coverage generated was extensive, with all the national
newspapers carrying the story and extensive news bulletins aired on the
main BBC programmes during the day, Newsnight and ITN.
The proposal also stimulated additional features on related subjects
ranging from architecture and office space to community affairs.
The tone of the coverage was mixed. The most compelling argument put
forward for the tower was its commercial value as demand grows for large
areas of office space among financial sector tenants and some
journalists felt the Millennium Tower will add to the City’s image as a
Conversely there were cries that every other European city had retained
its traditional skyline and the Tower would dominate the London skyline,
pushing St Paul’s aside and ruining the City’s historic streets.
Kvaener’s announcement certainly stimulated the desired debate, although
the press were divided on the project’s merits. However, Emberley, says
that company was pleased with the media response.
The press conference however drew some media criticism, starting late as
it did, with little or no information available prior to the
announcement. The general consensus among journalists was that the
presentation itself was too long and technical.
What impact the press coverage will have on the planning application -
particularly if rumours that the Baltic Exchange may take legal action
against English Heritage and City Corporation if the proposed
redevelopment is allowed, are correct - will not be clear until the
application is processed early next year.