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6 Neck Stretching Buildings of London

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published August 23rd 2013
A City to Look up to


Since retiring, my dad's friend bought a book of London walks by Time Out; he aims to complete one a week, and on Dad's day off, we sometimes join him. This week we travelled up to Tower Hill and London Bridge to do a 'Block Building' walk, which consisted of old churches and modern buildings with architecturally intriguing designs.

While the churches turned out to be a bit of a disappointment because you could not go in them, I was entranced by all the fun shapes and fascinating structures of some of London's latest buildings. Office blocks are no longer bleak monstrosities like the imposing towers of doom from the 1970s; now they are sleek, bright, attractive glass buildings.

1. The Gherkin

gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, Swiss Re Building
30 St Mary Axe - Swiss Re, London, A 8TPA 8TP


Officially named 30 St Mary Axe, this London skyscraper is more lovingly known as The Gherkin. In the centre of London's financial district, the building was completed in December 2003 and opened in April 2004.

It stands on the site of the former Baltic exchange, which was severely damaged in a 1992 bombing. It was originally going to be the location of the Millennium Tower, but plans for that building were axed in 1996.

The Gherkin was first called the Swiss Re, after the reinsurance company that occupied it, but that was later changed. It built with an with energy-saving design, such as a six shaft ventilation system that acts like double glazing for improved insulation.

the gherkin, 30 st mary axe, the good, the bad, and the ugly, jake & diono's chapman
'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Jake & Dino's Chapman'


Outside, you'll see The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, a sculpture of three dinosaurs by Jake & Dino's Chapman.

2. The Heron

the heron, milton court
The Heron, Moor Lane, London EC2


Also known as Milton Court, The Heron is a thirty-six storey residential flat that is soon to be completed in September. Designed by David Walker Architects, it was originally going to have forty-four floors, but was scaled down due to criticism. It is made with clear, opaque black, and grey glass for a highly reflective and striking surface.

3. The Cheesegrater

the cheese grater, 122 Leadenhall Street
The, 122 Leadenhall Street Cheesegrater


Officially called the Leadenhall building after the street it is on, the name 'Cheesegrater' is far more descriptive and memorable. The building is still under construction, and won't be finished for about another year, but it already looks stunning, and has an amazing perspective when you look under it. The Cheesegrater was designed by Richard Rogers, who came up with the creative shape so as not to obscure the view of St. Paul's Cathedral.

4. Lloyd's Building


Lloyd's building
Lloyd's Building, 1 Lime Street


Directly opposite The Cheesegrater is The Lloyd's Building; it's inside out design gives it an industrial chic look, but was less for aesthetic purposes than for practical ones. It is known as a Bowellism architecture, which is intended to provide maximum interior space by keeping all the industrial workings on the outside. This also makes it easier to make repairs on the infrastructure.

The first Lloyd's Build was built in 1928, but has been re-constructed several times; once in 1958, then expanded in 1978, and finally demolished and rebuilt in 1986. It is one of the buildings that you can visit during Open House London on the 21st & 22nd September.

5. The Shard

the shard
The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, Southwark


The Shard opened on the 1st February this year; at a height of one thousand and four feet, it is now the tallest building in Europe. With seventy-two accessible floors, it consists of office space, restaurants, a viewing gallery, and open-air observation deck. It was designed by the Italian architect, Renzo Piano, who was inspired by sailing ship masts, and the spire buildings painted the the eighteenth century Italian artist, Canaletto. Ironically, the iconic building was named after a quote given by English Heritage, who criticised the structure as 'a shard of glass through the heart of historic London'. Considering there are so many other glass buildings in London, I'm not sure why they had a particular be in their bonnet about this one; I would guess the height, contributed to their displeasure, but I think it is better to build upwards than use up more ground space.

The Shard is made up of eleven thousand panes of glass that are slanted in such a way as to reflect the sunlight so that it will appear to change with the seasons.

This is one of the few buildings available to visitors; it costs between 24.95-29.95 for adults and 18.95-23.95 for under sixteens.

6. The Monument

the monument, fire of london
The Monument, Fish Street


Diverging from the theme of Modern London, The Monument is a Roman Doric column commemorating the people who died in The Great Fire of London. Standing at two hundred and two feet, it is the tallest isolated stone column in the world, and designed by Christopher Wren. It was built between 1671-1677 on the site of St. Margret's, the first church to be burnt down by the fire.

the monument, fire of london


For 3, visitors can climb to the top of The Monument and see view the London skyline. Three sides of the column have Latin inscriptions describing how the fire started, how it was extinguished, and what King Charles II's response was. There is also a bas relief depicting the destruction of the city.
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Why? Impressive to see up close
When: Anytime
Where: Around London
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