London is the capital and the largest city in England and the United Kingdom. Possessing rich culture and history it is a major tourist attraction and one of the most photographed cities in the world. The myriad of architectural styles give it a distinctive position and enchanting urban realms. The celebrated architect Norman Foster envisions a city, it’s public spaces, transport, and services, the stations and streets that we pass through every day, to the details of street furniture and benches that are close enough for us to touch as the ‘urban glue’ that binds a city together, the quality of its infrastructure is arguably more important than the collective merits of individual buildings. This vision is a fitting description for the city of London that served the seat of the British Empire that spanned the globe, thus holding a pioneering role in directing and dictating the course of architecture worldwide, and boasting structures as old as the mid-3rd century Temple of Mithras, to the most extraordinary collection of mega towers by most celebrated contemporary architects. The city is an open museum in its own right – enabled by a careful and sensitive synergy between all those ‘players’ who have a role in shaping the city as we know it. For architects and designers, London is one of the epicenters, having enabled and borne the practices of Pritzker winners like Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers to the emerging young talents like Asif Khan, Pernilla Ohrstedt, and Thomas Heatherwick and institutions as the RIBA, School of Architecture Bartlett UCL, and Architectural Association (AA) who’ve had a definitive role in shaping the models of practice and pedagogy of architecture.
Being situated in this context, let us take a look at some of the places in London, as tangible embodiments of the cumulative of the intangible forces, at work.
1. Palace of Westminster
Iconic part of the London cityscape is the Palace of Westminster serving as the meeting place of the House of the Commons and the House of the Lords. The two Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom. Designed by Sir Charles Barry and Sir Augustus Pugin in Gothic revival style, the spiky splendor with Perpendicular Gothic style of 14th – 16th century, and its historic significance makes it unique. Sitting alongside Big Ben -The Clock Tower, is still one of the largest watches in the world. The height of the tower is 96 meters, inside it, there is a narrow spiral staircase of 334 steps. It is a London landmark and listed in UNESCO World Heritage site due to its history, architecture and current functioning.
2. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is a Gothic church in Westminster, London also listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. Westminster Abbey was founded on the site of old churches in 1065 by Edward the Confessor, is still the main church of the country and holds regular church services, which anyone can join. Westminster Abbey, where all the sovereigns since the 11th century have been crowned is of great historic and symbolic significance making it worth a visiting place.
3. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. At times of rejoicing and mourning it has been of symbolic significance of belonging to British people. Constructed in Neoclassical style by architect John Nash. The palace and its garden occupy an area of 20 hectares, there is a police station, two post offices, a hospital, a pool, a bar. In the palace itself, there are 775 rooms, among them is the official office of the Queen. It is good example of classical antiquity and Vitruvian principles making it an important place to visit.
4. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1763, St Paul’s Cathedral is listed as Grade I building in London. It is an impressive work of architecture, built in a restrained Baroque style with the inspiration of Andrea Palladio it combines Neoclassical, Gothic, and Baroque elements. Whispering Gallery in the dome has a very unique acoustics and the view from top of cathedral is mesmerizing as it is situated on the top location in the historic core.
5. The Tower Bridge
London’s most famous bridge- Tower Bridge built in 1894, this suspension bridge hovers over the River Thames. Lifting itself for nearly 3 times a day for large ships passing river Thames. Over 400 workers worked on the bridge construction for 8 years. Its main difference from the rest of the London bridges is that it is movable and it is the lowest one located above the Thames. The length of the Tower Bridge is 244 meters and the height of the two support towers is 65 meters. Tower Bridge is among the most iconic sights in London to photograph and film due to its robust architecture value worth appreciating.
6. Tower of London
The Tower of London also recognized as massive White Tower is a typical example of Norman military architecture. William the Conqueror built the White Tower in 1066 as a demonstration of Norman power, siting it strategically on the River Thames to act as both fortress and gateway to the capital. It is the most complete example of an 11th century fortress palace remaining in Europe. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for its cultural value. Be historians or architects it is a must visit place due to its locational significance and rich history. (Information Source -UNESCO Official Website – https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/488/ )
7. The British Museum
Founded in 1753, The British Museum is the central historical and archaeological museum of Great Britain and one of the largest museums in the world with over 6 million visitors annually .Its exposition occupies 94 galleries, the total length of which is 4 km. The museum’s collection tells of two million years of human history in different parts of the world. It includes thousands of famous works of art and architectural monuments. The mix of classical architecture on exterior and contemporary architecture in the Great Court is impressive and worth observing.
8. The Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public square located at the heart of Capital, which is the heart of the Nation and at one time the heart of Empire, which controlled three fifth of the world. There is saying that you missed London if you missed exploring Trafalgar Square. It is of greater value to London for its urban realm. Architects and urban planners must observe this setting, and interventions carried for this square, as it has been major tourist attraction and a significant landmark since 13th century.
9. National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum (NMM) is a maritime museum in Greenwich, London. Symmetrically arranged alongside the River Thames, the ensemble of the 17th century Queen’s House, part of the last Royal Palace at Greenwich, the palatial Baroque complex of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, and the Royal Observatory founded in 1675 and surrounded by the Royal Park laid out in the 1660s by André Le Nôtre, reflects two centuries of Royal patronage and represents a high point of the work of the architects Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and Christopher Wren (1632-1723), and more widely European architecture at an important stage in its evolution. It also symbolizes English artistic and scientific endeavor in the 17th and 18th centuries. (Information Source – Official UNESCO WEBSITE- http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/795 ). The area, under the name Maritime Greenwich, was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997, making it a must visit site.
10. Central Bussiness District ( CBD) of London
The Great city of London
The City of London is a city and local government district that contains the historic center and the primary central business district (CBD) of London. It constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages, but the agglomeration has since grown far beyond the City’s borders. The City is now only a tiny part of the metropolis of London, though it remains a notable part of central London. (Information Source – Wikipedia). The CBD is worth place to explore by walking due to its rich architectural variations in styles from low rise to high-rise structures, also the historic and contemporary buildings to enhance one’s architectural insight.
11. The Shard
Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, ‘The Shard’ is the tallest building in London nearly 309.6 m tall of hi tech architecture. Its home to a number of restaurants, bars and offices, after it officially opened in 2013. The view from ‘The Shard’ is twice the height of any other vantage point in London allowing a 360 degree surreal view of London skyline and its outer boroughs.
12. The Gherkin
The Gherkin is a 180 m tall building often referred as the masterpiece in the skyscraper architecture. Designed by Foster + Partners, ‘Gherkin’ meaning cucumber denotes the unusual vegetable like shape of the building. It is also called the bullet building. Diamond shaped scaly facade, shimmering crystal image and distinctive shape make it remarkable in London skyline. Tower’s topmost panoramic dome, known as the “lens “offers a magnificent view of the city. Voted as the most admired new building in the world is a must visit in London.
13. Notting Hill
‘Notting Hill’ is made famous by the filming of the movie ‘Notting Hill. It is an affluent district in West London, located north of Kensington within the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. It is known for attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses and high-end shopping and restaurants. Different shades of rainbows and muted pastel colors making it London’s most picturesque neighborhood giving a very bohemian and idyllic vibe. This cosmopolitan area is worth exploring for architecture and urban realms for market spaces and shops.
14. London City Centre
City Hall is one of the capital’s most symbolically important projects, which expresses the transparency of the democratic process and demonstrates the potential for a wholly sustainable, virtually non-polluting public building. The headquarters occupies a prominent site on the Thames beside Tower Bridge. Notable for its strange bulbous shape, quoted from foster + partners the building has been designed so that it has no front or back in conventional terms. Its shape is derived from a geometrically modified sphere, developed using computer modelling techniques. It is one of the finest example of modernism and green energy efficient architecture worth visiting.
15. Wembley StadiumSource: Tom Shaw/Getty Images
The state of the art Wembley Stadium designed by Norman Foster can provide catering for 40,000 spectators at any one time The whole stadium has a circumference of 1 kilometer.The stadium, with a retractable roof and a 133m high arch, visible throughout London, many people don’t know that the majestic white arch rising above the stadium actually supports the entire main roof and 60 per cent of the retractable roof. By using retractable roof panels, which retract to the south, it allows as much daylight and ventilation to reach pitch level as possible. It is must visit building designed by legendary architect.