London Architecture Guide

Bob Borson —  September 7, 2011 — 22 Comments

Like any respectable architect, I have been doing my homework. In two weeks, I am heading off on a quick 5-day trip to London to attend the London Design FestivalDecorex100% Design, and Tent London as part of a flotilla of US Design and Lifestyle blogger’s (and 1 architect) organized as Blog Tour 2011. It will be a design intensive  5 days but just like Anthony Bourdain, “I’m hungry for more”.

Armed with only my arms, the internet, a pad of paper, a Lamy pen, my lunch, black framed glasses, a Jack Spade messenger bag, 60 minutes (okay – a bunch of things), I put together a list of some places I would like to visit while in town. Since I have been to London a few other times, I kept some of the obvious destinations off this list (anyone who recommends St. Paul’s Cathedral wins the “I’m So Obvious I’m A Massive Dullard” award).

A n y w a y s ……

Here is my list, hopefully there will be a pub located by each one of these places – looking at buildings is thirsty work and if you plan on taking pictures of those buildings… well, I can guaranteed that you will become dehydrated. I made it this far in an hour but I’m sure that others can add to this list of must see buildings in London.

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Central St. Giles Court by Renzo Piano and Fletcher Priest Architect

Central St. Giles Court / Renzo Piano & Fletcher Priest Architects

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Swiss Re Building by Foster + Partners

Swiss Re Building / Foster & Partners

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London City Hall by Foster & Partners

London City Hall / Foster & Partners

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Laban Dance Centre by Herzog de Meuron

Laban Dance Centre / Herzog & de Meuron

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The Blue Fin Building by Allies and Morrison

The Blue Fin Building / Allies and Morrison

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Grand Union Walk Housing by Grimshaw Architects

Grand Union Walk Housing / Grimshaw Architects

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City of London Information Center by Make Architects

The City of London Information Centre / Make Architects

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One New Change by Jean Nouvel and Sidell Gibson Architects

One New Change / Jean Nouvel and Sidell Gibson Architects

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Donnybrook Quarter by Peter Barber Architects

Donnybrook Quarter / Peter Barber Architects

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W London Leicester Square by Jestico and Whiles

W London Leicester Square / Jestico + Whiles

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Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form by Jestico + Whiles

Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form / Jestico + Whiles

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Town Hall Hotel by rare

Town Hall Hotel / rare

Evelyn Grace Academy by Zaha Hadid Architects

Evelyn Grace Academy / Zaha Hadid Architects

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Longford Community School by Jonathan Clark Architects

Longford Community School / Jonathan Clark

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London Metropolitan University by Daniel Libeskind
London Metropolitan University / Daniel Libeskind

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The Great Court of the British Museum / Foster & Partners

The Great Court of the British Museum / Foster & Partners

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So what do you think? Surely I have a few obvious and embarrassing omissions in this list. Let me know in the comment section below –

Cheers!

ps – I think I am going to create time one night to meet a few people from London for a pint. If you are in London and are interested in being part of some weird pub thing, let me know and we’ll put some sort of list together.

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  • Sarah Wauters

    I’ll be touring around and photographing between 9/7 – 9/15 please join me, Bob!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Sounds awesome! However, this post was from September 2011 sooooo [sad trombone]

      Have a great trip – send me a photo!

  • Sarah Wauters

    Dear Bob,
    This will be invaluable for me in coming days – I havent been to London in many years and will visit in about 2 weeks. Are you available for a tour?

  • http://minimalisti.com Blimonow

    London the Fusion between the Modern and Classic Architecture. Inpiration is the word.

  • http://twitter.com/megatorial Megan Mazzocco

    Congrats on this trip, Bob; I can’t wait to hear more of your observations.

  • http://www.henriquebgomes.com Henrique Barros-Gomes

    Bob, You must also visit Herzog & de Meuron’s Tate Modern!

    Have a nice trip.

  • Anonymous

    Bob, I used to live in London.

    I still miss it – it’s one of my homes. 

    Nice to see that even if you can see some historic architecture there, that London represents the cutting edge too.

    Enjoy your trip. I wish I could join you for that pint!

  • Spyridon Kaprinis

    Kudos! Excellent list indeed! Please do not neglect British Brutalism…some of its best proponents are “based” in London !

    http://www.e-architect.co.uk/london/brutalist_architecture.htm

    http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/tomarmstrong-20241/london-architecture-the-best-of-brutalism-4918/

    SK

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      how could I ignore Brutalism? I still remember walking around Barbican Centre in 1990 and being amazed (even as a silly testosterone fueled 22 year old). I have been struggling with which buildings I will try and see – I won’t have time for most of these unfortunately.

      Thanks for the links

  • Anonymous

    I’m a huge fan of Westminster underground station. It’s got a really human use of concrete, the way English brutalism does when money is actually spent on it (instead of using it as a watered down style to save money on housing estates). But something about the location and handling of volumes in a vertical void: it gives off this really amazing feel that somehow seems to express an Orwellian mood + the 90s Blairite spirit/culture of Cool Brittania, and yet it isn’t unpleasant to be in or use. There’s a film of Richard III from ’95 that got filmed in the Tate’s Turbine Hall; it’s very cool- but if it had been made a few years later, Westminster Underground might have been better. The project is by Michael and Patty Hopkins- they’re pretty well established in the UK, but in the past decade or so have really started moving overseas (including some good work at Rice Uni).

    They’ve also just finished the Olympic Velodrome- the whole Olympic site in Stratford is worth trying to see, or as much as you can anyway, especially time permitting- it’s definitely a trek out there. Most of it’s still under scaffolding or behind hoardings, but there’s a bus route on diversion that goes through the site, and on the East London greenway there’s a ‘View Tube’ that, well, does what it says on the label. Might not be worth the trip out though.

    For old and stone: Nicholas Hawksmoor’s churches are pretty outstanding, if you haven’t seen them already. In some ways, he’s a much better version of Wren (or at least the architect’s architect version- and a lot of recent scholarship on their design processes is suggesting that a lot of Wren’s best detailing etc is in Hawksmoor’s hand). Personally, I think Christ Church Spitalfields is Hawksmoor’s best, precisely because it was in a poorer area where it didn’t have to follow ‘taste’- he does some cool play with massing/perspective/expectation that even 400 years on is still really surprising.

    Dulwich Picture Gallery is probably the best place in London to see it, but Rick Mather and his studio are doing really excellent work when it comes to contemporary insertions in historic fabric. Most of their best work is in Oxford/Cambridge, but Dulwich is good- a bid like a more practical/less mystical version of Chipperfield Neues Museum, but I guess that’s possible when you aren’t having to contend with the history/politics of Berlin.

    And if you’ve been an arch student in London, you’ve probably already seen it- but John Soane’s museum really is in a world of its own.

    Oh- don’t think I could get away with leaving this out, but most of Eric Parry’s work as well: I’d choose either 60 Threadneedle or 30 Finsbury Sq (nothing too original on that choice).

    Exhibitions- if you get here before the 18th, Morphosis at the RA is definitely worth it (and I went in mostly pessimistic, with a sense of dread about the shortlist for the MFA Houston expansion), and then Zumthor’s Serpentine will still be up when you’re here; worth seeing, but I don’t know about how well he’s translated coming down off the mountain into London.

    Hope some of this list helps to throw in an extra stop or two in what I’m imagining will be a pretty rushed 5 days- and a pub trip for your London-based readers sounds exciting; count me in, when you’ve got the list running? Possibly suggest- Gordon’s next to Charing X station- opened in the 1890s, it’s a wine bar -but that name gives off the wrong idea-, in these amazing cellars that must defy every fire code in the world (particularly this country’s), not great for those of us 6’+, but also has a huge terrace if the weather’s good. Can get very crowded very quickly though.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      people are going to have a hard time living up to this response!

      Thanks for the considered response – thanks James, I really appreciate it

  • Jtaraska

    Great list, but I’d add Peckham Library and Media Center (Will Alsop, 1999) http://www.open2.net/modernity/3_18.htm

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Love Will Alsop!

  • Rob

    I wish Dallas was half as interesting and daring as London is architecturally. I envy your trip and the experience that comes with it.

  • http://twitter.com/bravdesignblog Joao Pereira deSousa

    It’s great that you get to travel through your blog experience! I should only mention that one should not pass by London without passing by and entering the amazing Royal National Theatre by Denys Lasdun: http://www.flickr.com/photos/asimplemind/5197466777/in/set-72157625144036445

    Be sure to check out more of his buildings around the city! Great Architect

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      great picture!

  • Craigy Baby

    Design wise, I was really impressed with the hard landscaping around the Tower of London. Otherwise ill just suggest dinner in Wahaca restaurant which is exceptional and affordable

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks for branching out and providing a restaurant – particularly one that is exceptional AND affordable. 

  • http://twitter.com/p___ Paul Kardous

    It’s a shame you’re not here one weekend before when London has OpenHouse weekend, with thousands of buildings usually not open to the public open for tours, many with their architects and engineers (http://www.openhouselondon.org.uk/)

    Try Gazzano House by Amin Taha Architects on Farringdon Road

  • http://twitter.com/Alexandrafunfit Alexandra Williams

    I’m not a massive dullard, but that Swiss Re thing looks like a piece of equipment ladies use (it involves batteries). So if you’re planning to visit phallic symbols, I’m sure the Tower has a few.

    • Anonymous

      Couldn’t agree more- It’s known to pretty much ever Londoner as ‘The Gherkin’, but I’ve always thought that’s just a PG name used because they can’t print what it actually looks like in the daily papers’ whose bread and butter is getting indignant about new construction in London.

    • Anonymous

      Couldn’t agree more- It’s known to pretty much ever Londoner as ‘The Gherkin’, but I’ve always thought that’s just a PG name used because they can’t print what it actually looks like in the daily papers’ whose bread and butter is getting indignant about new construction in London.