London-based writer with incurably itchy feet always looking for the quirky and curious
Published August 26th 2010
From the Tower of London to the Gherkin to the BT Tower, London wouldn't be London without its iconic buildings. And at the New London Architecture's Building Centre (NLA) you can find out not only about the city's architectural past but some icons of the future too.
You'll find all of the above famous landmarks here, along with many others, in the approximately 12m-long Pipers Central London Model. Undoubtedly the highlight of the NLA's exhibition, this extremely intricate 1:1500 perspective model of the city centre not only emulates the existing cityscape between Paddington to the Royal Docks, but also displays a number of new buildings, which have been granted planning permission. These include the extensive Olympic Village and a plethora of new skyscrapers set to dramatically alter London's skyline. Make up your mind about the yet-to-be-built structures here.
On a more practical note, the Pipers Model at the NLA can provide the perfect chance to get your bearings in this complex city. If you've left your map at the hotel, or you're just looking for a more tangible bird's eye perspective of Central London, then head this way.)
The remainder of the exhibitions at the NLA are far from exhaustive. Don't expect to find high-tech interactive displays or knowledgeable curators propped about, but this isn't to say, the limited content is hollow or dull. In fact, the NLA is involved in some very encouraging projects such as the redevelopment of vacant urban sites, or brown-field areas. It is both inspiring and heartwarming to see what ideas up-and-coming designers and architects have for these wasted, neglected spaces in the City.
There is also a permanent display on 'Transforming the London Boroughs' with particular focus on Lambeth, Barking and Dagenham, Southwark, Croydon and Barnet, among others. Once again this makes for very positive reading as the NLA lays out the local authorities' plans for regenerating their particular areas and London as a whole.
Overall, there might not be touchscreen displays, hundreds of exhibits or even a giftshop at the NLA's headquarters, but there is something very dynamic about this place. Partly this is down to the organisation's privileged position, which enables it to see the London of the future. But it would be a disservice to say this was the only factor behind the dynamism, because just as essential is the NLA's passion for innovation and regeneration and, more fundamentally, that this spotlight on architecture is an entirely unique London experience.