Shangri-La The Shard London have worked with James Haldane, architecture critic, to highlight some of the most notable buildings you can see from TĪNG as well as the entertaining stories behind them.
TOWER OF LONDON
William the Conqueror
Founded during the Norman Conquest as a grand albeit fortified palace, the tower’s complex of buildings has served many purposes since 1066. These include as a treasury, an armoury and, from 1100 until 1952, an occasional prison – including for its final captives, the infamous London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Astonishingly, possibly more consistently, it served as the royal menagerie. Records of 1210–1212 show payments to lion keepers and there is later evidence of leopards and even a polar bear. This latter creature, gifted to the king in 1252 by Haakon IV of Norway, was known to attract a great deal of attention when it went fishing in the Thames leashed on a metal chain.
Sited at the edge of a conservation area, the Walkie Talkie is perhaps the most controversial member of the City Cluster of skyscrapers in London’s historic banking centre. Though its free rooftop ‘Sky Garden’ eased planners' concerns, the British public still went on to nominate it for the Carbuncle Cup as 2015’s worst new building. Previously, during construction in the summer of 2013, its concave façade was found to act like a magnifying glass by focusing light onto the streets below. After it caused £1000 of damage to a parked Jaguar, journalists demonstrated the power of the ‘deathray’ by frying an egg in its focal point at street level.
Old Billingsgate Market
Though a fish market has existed here since the 16th century, by the time it was housed in this elegant edifice, Billingsgate was the largest in the world. Traders used to boast they sold “every fish that swims, except the whale and goldfish”. Jones’ design sought to sanitise this vital yet unsightly part of urban life by introducing a fashionable French influence with a steeply pitched mansard roof, and decorating its pavilions and their weathervanes with gilded dolphins. Following the market’s relocation in 1982, his building was sensitively converted by Rogers Stirk Harbour to an events space where exhibitions and awards dinners grace
the former market floor.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
It was a former Credit Suisse chairman who had the idea to convert Canary Wharf, once an industrial port, into a ‘back office’ for London’s banking sector. Masterplanned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, construction began in 1988 to create ‘Wall Street on Water’. Among the first structures completed was 1 Canada Square in 1991, then the UK's tallest building. Today the obelisk-like tower seems to possess its own gravity, pulling London’s centre eastwards. Recognisable by its pyramid shaped roof, César Pelli’s design is intended to evoke both Big Ben and the buildings of Manhattan’s Financial District.
ROYAL LONDON HOSPITAL
In 1740, seven gentlemen met in the Feathers Tavern, Cheapside, to brainstorm the idea that would become The Royal London Hospital - one of Britain’s most state-of-the-art healthcare facilities. It now stands out in the East London skyline as an immense, impressive and modernist blue-grey monolith. The cluster of interconnected, contemporary glass buildings was developed by architects HOK to focus on the future, while respecting the original 18th buildings. Home to London’s Air Ambulance, the rooftop helipad is one of the highest in Europe and is almost the same height as Big Ben. The hospital museum, in the crypt of a 19th century church, features works of art, surgical instruments, and even original material on Jack the Ripper. Call the Midwife, the long-running UK series, which follows the life of a midwife from The Royal London, was partly filmed there too.
At once practical and fantastical, the iconic silhouette of Tower Bridge reflects its dual identity. With an opening span of 200 feet, it improved the river’s shipping access while enabling pedestrians to cross uninterrupted over its upper level. However, the design competition further required submissions to harmonise with the nearby Tower of London. Though now treasured, according to one Victorian architectural critic, the historically styled result “represents the vice of tawdriness and pretentiousness, and of falsification of the actual facts of the structure". Nonetheless it satisfied its patron, the Bridge House Estates, a little-known but still operational charitable trust founded in 1282 to maintain the original London Bridge.
Foster and Partners
Housing until very recently the Mayor of London, City Hall was intended to project noble messages on two fronts: political and environmental. Its expansive use of glass is designed to offer views through the structure to express the transparency of the democratic process. While this often leads to comparisons with the Reichstag dome in Berlin, another of Foster’s projects, members of London’s city council at one point reportedly complained the building would be too open planned for use by separate political parties. The structure also manages to meet its own ambitious environmental and energy performance goals through its distorted spherical form, which ‘leans’ to minimise the surface area exposed to direct sunlight.
Harland and Wolff
One might not expect to find a warship berthed on the Thames, but this historic example of naval architecture is preserved as the last remaining British vessel to have seen action on D-Day. After being retired by the Royal Navy, HMS Belfast passed into the care of the Imperial War Museums as the largest artefact in their collections and an impressive museum in its own right. The vessel is painted in a ‘dazzle’ scheme – a form of patterned ship camouflage pioneered in Britain. Relying upon optical illusion like a zebra’s stripes, this disruptive camouflage works to break up a ship’s outline to confuse the enemy about its speed and dimensions.