The New London Model: Towering over the City

st paul's cathedral on the nla city model

Should you want to feel godlike, the entire capital spread out beneath your glorious presence, then the place to go is The London Centre, in Guildhall, because it is there that you can get to experience New London Architecture’s magnificent models of the city and its buildings.

There are three such models on display at the moment; the Royal Docks development, the City Model (of which more shortly) and the New London Model, and each is a pretty impressive example of the modelmakers’ craft.

The New London Model is huge – 12.5m long, representing a 25km slice of the capital. In front of you is over 195 sq km of London, from Wembley to the City Airport, and from King’s Cross to Peckham. Although not topographical – the city is on a flat plane, without the hills and folds of the landscape beneath the buildings – the parks, nature reserves, reservoirs, waterways and other ‘natural’ spaces can easily be seen among the road, railway lines and the general ‘built environment’. 

Looking down, one is made aware of the millions of terraced properties of the inner suburban streets and, as well as the skyward-reaching buildings of the City and Docklands, the new development clusters and their high-rises. Elephant, Wembley, King’s Cross, North Greenwich – all have their new towers and – closer to (my) home – the godawful mess around Vauxhall, surely one of London’s ugliest collections of residential skyscrapers.

It is fun to pick out individual places, buildings and roads, to trace walking or cycling routes that one knows, to see how the city connects; it’s like having a 3D Google Earth on a table in front of you.

The City of London model next to it is even more detailed. Whereas on the New London Model 22 Bishopsgate (all 278m of it) is reduced to about 14cm, on the 1:500 scale City Model it is over half a metre tall. All the buildings are made with finer detail, with many illuminated from inside.

And as well as representations of historic buildings like St Paul’s Cathedral or the Tower, and the 21st century new builds such as the Gherkin, Cheesegrater and Shard, the diorama shows the towers for which development permission has been granted, even though construction has yet to begin. So, for example, the 73 storey ‘Trellis Tower’ at 1 Undershaft can be seen rising above the City’s current tallest tower at 22 Bishopsgate. As such, the Model not only represents the City’s present, but reflects the skyline of the near future.

The London Centre is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 1100-1700 – admission is free.