Peter Ackroyd's best-selling biography, London, compares the city with a living organism, detailing its life from Roman times to the modern day. It is a city where the crowded streets and jumbled, hodgepodge buildings appear to have a life of their own; set out in a mulch of styles and heights. One building is modern glass and steel, the next is Tudor-beamed, its neighbour Georgian-stuccoed. It is as if the city designer was drunk. London, unlike Paris, never had a grand design or master designer. It grew up on its own, guided, but never ordered. Burned down or bombed, but always rebuilt. Now, there is little fertile space left for London to grow. Hemmed in by green-belt limits, it cannot expand south, into the rich Kent and Surrey hinterland, nor north into Hertfordshire. Neither can it edge west, into Berkshire. Only east into Essex is feasible, but new towns planned along the Thames are popular only with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Though none warrant, nor ask for, sympathy, London developers must eke out every nook and cranny to build on, but they are inhibited by planning clauses stipulating a ratio of affordable homes for key workers, such as nurses. The only alternative is up, a still much-maligned option since the concrete monstrosities of the 1960s and 1970s. Just as the green belt tightens the sprawl, so the tall-buildings law limits height. Or it did until last week, when Mr Prescott, who has the last word on planning rows, approved the Lots Road residential towers in Chelsea; at 37 storeys it will be the tallest in glamorous west London. It is fitting, then, that it looks like a lipstick. While angry conservationists fear the precedent, bemused Londoners joke about a skyline soon to be dominated by lipsticks and odd-looking, bizarrely named buildings. The city already has the Swiss Re tower, aka the 'Gherkin', and permission has been granted for the 224-metre triangular 'Cheesegrater', formally known as 122 Leadenhall Street, opposite that rather dated icon, the Lloyds Building. There is also approval for the Minerva Building, aka Bookends, at 217 metres, and permission is expected for the 290-metre Bishopsgate Tower that resembles a fairground helter-skelter. Another is dubbed the 'Three Sisters', though quite why the draft of three P&O towers at South Bank's Waterloo looks like women is anyone's guess. Ugly they may be, sisters they are not. At least the 60-storey London Bridge Tower blueprint resembles its nickname, The Shard. It has been approved, as has the 243-metre Heron Tower which, thankfully, looks nothing like the bird. Cheesegraters, bookends, gherkins and helter-skelters? It is an odd, but organic, assortment.