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Telecom Tower, London
A visit to the BT Tower, March 2004

The circular tower stands 189 metres high (about the same distance as 20 double-decker buses parked end to end) and is designed to sway up to 20 centimetres from the vertical in high winds.

Weather extremes cause the structure to expand and contract, and the BT Tower can be as much as 23 centimetres shorter in the winter than it is in the summer!

BT Tower: a view from underneath the tower, London W1
BT Tower: a view from underneath the tower

Inside the tower

The tower is now used as a presentation suite for BT customer events, and after some manoeuvring, I managed to score an invite to a BT industry launch event. After passing the security checks, I was led into a comfortable ground floor auditorium, where I was treated to the an hour-long presentation with blokes in suits playing 'buzz word bingo'

I learnt all about 'convergence', 'empowerment', 'communications paradigm','vibrant choice', 'synergies', 'integrated marketplaces', 'call stimulation effect', 'intuitive possibilities', 'monetised content', 'revolutionary platforms' and 'focused multimedia strategies'. Fascinating.

So why did I put myself through this corporate hell?

That's simple - the presentation ended with lunch up the BT Tower - a building I've been trying to get inside for years!

Ground level entrance to the British Telecom Tower
Ground level entrance to the BT Tower

The security is extremely tight at the BT Tower, with visitors only being admitted after displaying full ID.

You then have to go through a full 'airport style' security check with a body frisk and metal detector scan.

Inside the entrance lobby at the BT Tower, London Q1
Inside the entrance lobby at the BT Tower

In this view you can see the green-blue security entrance and a sloped surface rising to an elevated entertainment seated area, equipped with several PCs and a large plasma screen.

I'd half imagined the interior design to be stuck in the 1960s, but it was trés modern inside with lots of chrome, discreet lighting, pale wood with de rigeur blue lights gleaming everywhere.

BT Telecom Tower from Fitzroy Square
Inside the lift, BT Telecom Tower

The BT Tower has two tall, narrow lifts and they've been decked out like something from Star Trek. Brightly lit and clad in cool polished steel, their hi-tech finish adds to the excitement of the trip ahead.

On the right hand side of the cramped lift there's an engraved diagram of the tower, with a moving blue strip showing you how far you've travelled inside the tower.

Conspiracy fans might like to ask what lives in the dark blue area at the bottom of the tower...

Lift speed indicator, British Telecom Tower, London
Lift speed indicator, British Telecom Tower

How cool is this thing?! Looking like an interface straight off the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, this LCD indicator flashes up the floor numbers as you whizz up the building, with a speedometer needle displaying the cruising speed.

The red and white arrow also animates in a suitably sci-fi fashion while you're soaring upwards at six metres a second (it takes just over 30 seconds to reach the top).

Looking up to the restaurant level on the BT Telecom Tower
Looking up to the restaurant level on the BT Telecom Tower

The lift takes you to the 34th floor which used to host the public restaurant (closed since 1980). It's easy to spot the restaurant level from the ground as it's the one sticking out!


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