In 1978, the year after architect Richard Rogers’ Pompidou Centre opened in Paris, construction started on his first major London project, The Lloyd’s Building in Lime Street.
Built to house the London Insurance Market, this was the first “high tech” building in the UK and there is still nothing quite like it.
The building is “inside out”, with the service functions placed on the exterior. The pipework and air conditioning ducts wrapped around the outside, the glass lifts scooting up the outside walls, the corner staircases like corkscrew metal are all still a delight to behold. But the concept is not decorative per se: it allows for easy replacement and maintenance of the facilities, and it means the inside can be open and flexible, with uninterrupted activity on each level. Rogers has designed other buildings in London since Lloyd’s, but none provoke the same sense of looking at something otherworldly. Continue reading
Climb the 311 stairs today to the top of the Monument and the view lays out the 21st century City. To the north the Walkie Talkie seems close enough to touch, and behind that are the Cheesegrater, the Gherkin, Heron Tower and the other towers of skyscraper alley.
To the south the view is dominated by the Shard, but the Elephant and Castle developments are now starting to block that horizon; the east has the packed legoland towers of Canary Wharf.
The west gives some relief with a great view of St Paul’s and down the river to Westminster, but look down into the City and one can see the current building boom with cranes and construction sites all around. Continue reading
Join me on Sunday mornings in November for a couple of walks and tours that will show you some hidden gems of the capital.
Rock n Roll Soho: Discover the heart of rock ‘n’ roll London – the places, clubs and venues that were the setting for the music that defined a generation. We’ll see where the Beatles’ did their last gig and the Pistols did their first; where the Stones were formed; the club where Hendrix performed; and the coffee bars that defined 1960s London.
13 November | 1030-1300 | Start at Savile Row W1 | More information and tickets here
Sunday Morning at the British Museum: Every visitor to London should see the British Museum, but with tens of thousands of objects on display, just where do you start? Discover the treasures of the British Museum – from over 4000 of human history.
20 November | 1030-1300 | British Museum Great Court | More information and tickets here
And also in November I’ll be looking at the treasures of the NATIONAL GALLERY on Friday evenings. If you want to find out more, email me and I’ll send you more information.
They don’t make as big a deal of it as they should, but at the Building Centre in Store Street (off Tottenham Court Road, and just round the corner from the British Museum) there is the most fantastic architectural model of London.
You can see the capital stretch out in front of you, from Stratford in the east right across to Old Oak Common, and from Primrose Hill in the north down to Nine Elms.
There are the clusters of skyscrapers in the City and Canary Wharf, the new developments at Battersea and Paddington. You can take in the ordered streets and quiet squares; notice the Eye, the Orbit, the Post Office (Telecom) Tower and the way the river weaves along, and appreciate the extraordinary amount of green space with which London is blessed. Continue reading
One of the shocks of middle age is realising just how old some of the music is that one listens to. Like all right-thinking people, one of my favourite tracks is the Clash’s ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais‘ – which is now nearly 40 years old. It’s chastening to think that track is as distant from the present as punk was from Ambrose and his Orchestra and Al Bowlly.
The other shock is that the places associated with this music have become sites for visitors. In just the same way as one would go and see parts of the city where Shakespeare or Dickens lived and worked, so one can now go and pay one’s respects to the venues where the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones or David Bowie once performed. Continue reading
Some snaps from the phone from walking around this month. Click on any image to see the whole galley
I have a terrible confession to make, one that will see me shunned by London society, if not drummed out of the city altogether: I don’t actually like Battersea power station.
Giles Gilbert Scott’s brooding brick behemoth by Chelsea Bridge has always been too squat, too square for my tastes. His Bankside power station (now the home of the Tate Modern) is wonderfully proportioned, its single chimney in tasteful contrast to the bloated glass towers on the other side of the river.
And if it were not for its chimneys, would anyone give a stuff about Battersea? Their elegant flutes are (for me) the sole redeeming feature of Scott’s earlier building. Continue reading
Men outnumber women on London’s Blue Plaques by over seven to one, so it was good to stumble across this in Vardens Road, just off St John’s Hill.
It was unveiled in September 2015 to commemorate the first woman to gain a pilot’s licence (in 1911, when she was 47) and – in association with French engineer Gustav Blondeau – the manufacturer of numerous aeroplanes.
There’s a truism that if you venture off the main street almost anywhere in London you’ll discover something new.
I do this a lot, sometimes just finding pretty ordinary Victorian streets, but often stumbling across a real gem. But it’s been a long time since I was struck by anything so wonderfully, gloriously, fabulously bonkers as Bonnington Square. Continue reading
Step out of the back door of the Blue Fin Building (as I did this morning) and rising up in front of you is the new extension to Tate Modern – 167,699 bricks’ worth (according to their website).
It’s by the firm of Herzog & de Meuron (who did the work transforming Giles Gilbert Scott’s original Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern back in 2000) and “will present a striking combination of raw industrial spaces and refined 21st century architecture”.
Striking it certainly is, its angular form contrasting starkly with the clean lines of the power station. Its ten storeys tall, and built on the old oil storage tanks (Bankside was oil-fired, unlike Scott’s coal-fired Battersea power station, also currently being transformed). The Tate say that the new development will increase display space by 60%.
I’ve an ambivalent attitude to much contemporary art, finding it engaging on an intellectual rather than an emotional level, and although I love the Turbine Hall space at Tate Modern it’s not a gallery that I find myself drawn to. Let’s see what goes into the new extension when it opens on 17 June.
(Click on any of the images below to see the gallery of snaps)