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Peter Rees – ‘the man who changed the London skyline’ – is honoured by London South Bank University

'Visionary' Peter Rees is awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Science
07 October 2014

As Chief Planning Officer for the City of London for almost 30 years, Peter Rees is hailed as the man responsible for some of the capital's most bold and iconic structures – including the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and the Walkie-Talkie.

Peter returned to London South Bank University (LSBU) – where he spent three years at studying town planning part time – to receive the title of Honorary Doctor of Science at the university's graduation ceremony on Monday 6 October.

Originally qualifying as an architect, he worked for the Department of the Environment's conservation team and then Lambeth Council, where his role involved breathing new life into the borough's neglected buildings.

It was at this point that he decided he needed a formal qualification in town planning to add to his grounding in architecture, and chose London South Bank University. "I wanted to formalise my knowledge of town planning," he says. "I've always been more interested in how whole areas work, rather than individual buildings. It's the mix of elements that makes a place dynamic." 

In 1985, he arrived at the Guildhall to head up the Corporation of London's planning department. His remit was to reshape the City in the wake of the 'Big Bang', the deregulation that opened up London's money markets and led to a massive influx of business and investment.

His vision was a place that would attract the very brightest brains from all over the world, and provide them with the opportunity to play hard as well as working hard. In short, he wanted "to make the Square Mile a bit less square."

His greatest – and certainly his most eye-catching – achievement is the cluster of skyscrapers that have emerged at the City's eastern end in the past few years which  complement each other and sit within their historic surroundings.

LSBU Vice Chancellor David Phoenix said: "In recognition of his vision, his achievement in transforming the City, and his commitment to sharing his knowledge and experience with the next generation of architects and planners. It is a pleasure to present Professor Peter Rees the award of Honorary Doctor of Science."