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London’s top ten beautiful buildings

Posted at 12:30 pm, September 21, 2014 in Arts & Entertainment, Design

Photograph of Christ Church, Spitalfields, London - The Great Misto


[Photo: The Great Misto]

1. Christ Church Spitalfields
This icon of baroque ’n’ roll architecture was unveiled in 1729. Built from brilliant white Portland stone (which was also used to construct St Paul’s and Buckingham Palace) and dominated by a 207ft three-tiered tower, Nicholas Hawksmoor’s design has stood the test of time. Through all the turbulence that Whitechapel has experienced – Jack the Ripper on a murder spree, hipsters filling the place with coffee roasteries – Christ Church has remained a stunning statement of religious intent.

National Theatre

2. The National Theatre
With its bleak lines and rough cast concrete, the National Theatre is a prime example of post-war brutalist architecture. It’s a world away from the elegant style of classic London but that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. And if you don’t like it, then you can go back to your thatched cottage and your dial-up internet and send a letter of complaint to: Wrong About Architecture, 34 Don’t Know About Buildings Avenue, SE35 7QS.

St Pancras station

3. St Pancras Station
Between George Gilbert Scott and his grandson Giles Gilbert Scott (who designed Bankside and Battersea Power Stations, and the red phone box), the Scott family are responsible for some of the most recognisable structures in London. But it’s Grandad Scott’s gothic behemoths that are the real stars, among them 1873’s Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station (now the Renaissance London Hotel). It’s a vast red- and coloured-brick edifice in Italianate style, where, once upon a time and in sumptuous surroundings, you could wait for your endlessly delayed British train.

Houses of Parliament

4. Houses of Parliament
The quintessential London landmark is the seat of British power and a stand-out example of brilliantly overblown public architecture. The current version was built between 1840 and 1870 after a devastating fire of 1834 destroyed the medieval building on the site. This Victorian pile was designed by Charles Barry in a suitably retro ‘perpendicular gothic’ style – an architectural order which favours strong vertical lines. Horizontal goths totally hate it.


5. The Barbican
Who can make a collection of huge, hulking, grey, concrete buildings in the middle of London look brilliant and appealing? The answer, of course, is the Barbi-can. Even people who hate modernist design stand in awe of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s highend estate/cultural centre with its jutting towers and curving low-rise structures. Well, most of them.

Freemason Hall

6. Freemasons’ Hall
For a group of people hellbent on secrecy, the Freemasons didn’t go for anonymous with their Covent Garden HQ. For a start, it’s bloody massive: the art deco building covers two-and-a-quarter acres. Then there’s the giant tower and huge columns flanking the entrance. It’s hard to miss but no one knows what it is, proving the best place to hide is in plain sight.


7. Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is an inspiring example of how you (or more specifically architects Herzog & de Meuron) can transform the interior of a decommissioned power station (Bankside) into a functional and beautiful space in which to display art. Over in Battersea, developers have been fretting away over exactly what kind of functional, beautiful flats they’re going to turn Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s other famous power station into. Ones with a very hefty price tag is the answer.


8. The Hoover Building
Most of us only see the Hoover Building when we’re speeding towards Heathrow Airport, and it’s been making travellers exclaim ‘Ooh, what’s that? Didn’t know that was here!’ since 1933. It’s a fine example of industrial art deco architecture, designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, with 15 window bays illuminated at night by neon green lights. It makes the suburb of Perivale look more like Miami than… Perivale. Which is no bad thing.

Shri Swaminarayan MandShri Swaminarayan Mand

9. Swaminarayan Mandir
To construct this magnificent Hindu temple, 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble were shipped to India to be hand-carved before being shipped again to north-west London. It may not sound like the most efficient way of doing things, but, hey, the result is a stunner, and certainly adds a much-needed spiritual note to the Neasden skyline.

The Shard

10. The Shard
Rising up sharply into the sky like, well, like a shard, Renzo Piano’s 306-metre-high glass tower really is accurately named. It’s strong but fragile-looking, and intimidatingly imposing. Some people are still to be won over by Western Europe’s tallest building but we think it’s a magnificent construction. Plus, it has toilets at the top with brilliant views of the city. Panoramic bogs! Now that’s architecture.

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