It’s difficult to begin with London when talking about architecture. Many London hotels organise or allow booking for architectural tours, which make a great activity during a short break. Run by professional architects and historians, Open House Architecture, on every Saturday, is a great way to learn about the buildings of London.
Amongst the oldest buildings still standing in London today are the Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, and the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. London is not characterised by any one construction style; it is a layered city, and therefore any one area can be exemplary of several eras at once. Indeed, London hotels are often embued with their own architectural history.
The Great Fire of 1666 burned down a lot of old London. Notable structures since that time include:
- The 51 churches and historical sites Christopher Wren built following the Great Fire. These include St Paul’s Cathedral and Kensington Palace.
- The financial district’s Royal Exchange and Bank of England are exemplary of 18th and 19th century stone architecture. This was also the period where many of the most famous London hotels were built.
- The Old Bailey – first built in the 15th century, this court has been rebuilt several times.
- The Barbican Estate, built in the 1960s, is an architectural achievement of scale.
- Recent buildings of note include the exosceletal Lloyds building, and the “Gherkhin”, built by Norman Foster in 2004, and now an icon of the city.
There are many interesting and unknown facts about London Architecture. A classic example is that many buildings around St Paul’s Cathedral were designed not to exceed the height of the dome, leading to some oddly shaped buildings on the Square Mile. The new ‘Shard of Glass Skyscraper is under construction next to St Paul’s though and is set to become Europe’s largest building at 309m high. Times have definitely changed.
At the moment there aren’t many skyscrapers in London, meaning they are noticeable in the skyline from miles away. For example, Canary Wharf can be seen from Battersea, eight miles away. With so many skyscrapers under construction though, this looks likely to change.