London is a city known for its beautiful and historic buildings designed by some of the world’s most famous architects. Since the turn of the century, however, a new type of architecture, constructed using concrete, steel and glass, has become an increasingly important part of the ever-changing cityscape. This modern architecture is a highly visible aspect of the city and deserves attention as much as its longstanding architectural counterparts.
As with all large, modern cities, London has its fair share of boring, uniform office high-rises, architecture that adds nothing to its surrounding environment. These and other ill-thought-out buildings tend to give modern architecture a bad name, though the reputation is unmerited. Home to an abundance of high-quality and visually stunning modern techniques, London proves that when done right, concrete, steel and glass can enrich and edify a city’s cultural heritage.
These three highly visible buildings are great examples of how modern architecture is enhancing London’s built environment.
London Modern Architecture – Lloyd’s Building (1986)
Richard Rogers’ Lloyd’s building is a breath of fresh air in a city full of concrete commercial office blocks. The daring design places the stairs, elevators, power cables, air ducts and water pipes on the exterior, creating a clean uncluttered working space inside the tower. The services, things that other buildings try to conceal, thus proudly ornament the outside of the Lloyd’s building, creating its unique look.
The Lloyd’s building is located at 1 Lime Street and although not regularly open to the public the office does open each year as part of London Open House, when it’s free to visit.
London Modern Architecture – London Eye (1999)
Similarly to the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, the London Eye was originally intended only to be a temporary construction. However, due to its immense popularity, much like the Eiffel Tower, the wheel has become a permanent landmark, an instantly recognizable symbol of the city.
The Eye is located on the south bank of the River Thames opposite the houses of parliament. It is currently the most visited paid tourist attraction in country and the 30-minute ride will cost £17.50.
London Modern Architecture – 30 St Mary Axe: The Gherkin (2004)
30 St Mary Axe, affectionately known as The Gherkin (the British word for a pickle) due to its shape, is a welcome addition to the city skyline. This visually striking postmodern tower is an extremely good example of how modern architecture can enhance its local environment. The building is appreciated by both the public and professionals alike and won its architect, Sir Norman Foster, Britain’s most prestigious architectural award, the RIBA Stirling Prize.
Located, unsurprisingly, at 30 St Mary Axe, The Gherkin is only open to the public once a year as part of London Open House.
These three iconic buildings are examples of the modern architecture that exists in London and is adding to the city’s growing portfolio of quality architecture. Due to their highly visible nature these buildings are almost impossible to miss on a trip to London, and if you get the chance are well worth taking a closer look at.