UN Studio has completed a curvilinear residential tower on London’s City Road


Hufton & Crow

Conceived as a series of vertical communities, UNStudio’s 22,000-square-metre Canaletto tower is situated on City Road in north London. The 31-storey residential development comprises a range of studio, one, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as a rooftop penthouse. Shared amenities include a swimming pool, health club, media room and resident’s club lounge with a terrace on the 24th floor.

“The City Road Tower distinguishes itself from buildings in the nearby financial district through variation, materials, clusters, a scale that is appropriate to the city streets, and a facade that creates its own residential identity by means of a varied and heterogeneous elevation”, says practice principal Ben van Berkel.

Scale, detail, and materials are carefully articulated to enhance near and distant views of the city. The facade creates a modelled elevation in which clusters of adjacent floors are grouped together. “We want residents to feel that they are part of a unique work of architecture, something that is identifiably theirs”, explains van Berkel. “This is why the design of Canaletto emphasises the clustering of different floors; small communities that are visibly unique from other nearby towers.”

Contrasting materials are employed within each grouping, where an ‘outer’ smooth metallic element is complemented by an ‘inner’ textured material. The cluster concept is also designed to maximise transparency and frame views towards the sky, giving the tower a softer, more nuanced silhouette.


The elevational treatment provides a number of environmental benefits. Surface modelling creates opportunities for shading, balancing good daylighting and views with reduced heat gain. The curving facade forms reduce wind-related down drafts, which combined with canopies at the base of the building, result in an improved pedestrian microclimate.


The modelling of the balconies within each grouped cluster is intended to lend variability to the facade and the living experiences of the residents. “The detailing and contrasting of the facade materialisation and the balconies plays a key role in the identity of the building, and is in fact borrowed from furniture design”, says van Berkel. “This is an approach that we typically apply to the design of smaller private houses. However, following extensive research into the potential for extending durability and maintenance, we were able to create unexpected material variations on a larger scale.”

Additional Images


Delivery architect
Axis Architects
Structural engineer
URS Scott Wilson
Facade engineer
Buro Happold
Services engineer
Hoare Lea


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