Canary wharf

Skyscraper squats and a lesson from India: the future of British architecture

Not long ago, if you asked discreetly in the right Hackney pub, you would be put in touch with a character called Syd the Squatbroker. For as little as £150, he would gain access to the roof of an abandoned council tower block with a set of fireman’s keys. Then Syd (nom de guerre of a carpenter from Harlow) would abseil down to a window, gain entry and open an empty flat. Sometimes he would cut through heavy steel squat guards using oxyacetylene cutting gear. Latter-day squatbrokers aren’t yet abseiling down the Shard or Canary Wharf’s glass and steel phalluses to liberate underused office spaces and thereby help solve London’s