Town mouse on One Hyde Park

Tremble and bow down: after what seems an eternity of hype, Candy and Candy’s gleaming fortress for billionaires on Knightsbridge, One Hyde Park, has been unveiled. It replaces Bowater House, a lumpen horror from that nadir of British architecture, the 1950s. In those years, London, still struggling to get on its feet after the Second World War, built meanly.

One Hyde Park couldn’t, in this respect, be more different. A legacy of the Blair/Brown era, it is rich, rich, rich-the architect being, if I may mention the irony, the Socialist peer Lord Rogers. Once owners are inside their dizzyingly expensive apartments, they need have no further contact with the city that surrounds them. Will the world ever glimpse them on the balconies? I doubt it.

Don’t mistake me: I’m glad London has its share of billionaires. But there isn’t much to love about these overbearing towers. Passers-by appear like the ragged, gesturing figures in a Piranesi engraving, dwarfed by the spectacle before them. One of the charms of London used to be that everyone shared the same streets and public spaces.

One Hyde Park is a parallel universe for the mega-rich, in the city but not of it-as conspicuous as a Ferrari, as sealed-off as a super yacht, stinking of money. Forgive me if I wrinkle my nose.