London’s various wars, fires, and industrial revolutions have resulted in an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Scattered landmarks, like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, are some of the only remaining structures that survived the Great Fire. More recently, the Blitz of 1940 upset the city’s skyline. The East End suffered most during the 47-day attack. From the City of London out toward Canary Wharf, the German bombers left little of the city’s 19th century façade. In the ‘60s, Modernist and Brutalist architecture altered the cityscape once again, joining a handful of iconic Art Deco buildings. Fine examples of Georgian, Edwardian, and Victorian architecture can still be found in commercial and residential areas of the capital. They share the street with new glass and metal superstructures, as well as properties dating from Tudor times. From sweeping palaces to crumbling remnants of Roman walls, London has something to satisfy every urbanite’s interest.
The Tate Modern opened in 2000 in a vast former power station on the South Bank. Inside, in the turbine hall, modern art exhibitors make the most of the space, which measures at 115 feet high and 500 feet long. Stroll over the suspended, ahead-of-its-time Millennium Bridge for a nightly view of the building illuminated.
The British Library
The largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century, The British Library opened in 1998, and houses treasures like the Magna Carta and handwritten Beatles lyrics. Critics panned the structure for looking too much like a sailing ship, and the red bricks and Scandinavian-Modernist style of this building are still controversial today.
Natural History Museum
One of three frontages in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum is one mile in depth and has two façades 1,000 feet long. Architecture buffs, start planning your trip—the Natural History Museum is the only museum in England with galleries dedicated to architecture.
St. Pancras Station
This enduring London icon survived German aerial bombardment during the Blitz in WWII, as well as the threat of demolishment in the 1960’s. Poet Sir John Betjemen took up the cause and saved the glorious Italian Gothic-style red brick building. A recent £800 million refurbishment restored and expanded the international hub.
This office building, officially called 30 St Mary’s Axe, was designed by Sir Norman Foster in 2004. The wraparound, blue-glass structure opened to some controversy due to its unusual shape (designed to avoid wind turbulence caused by its 590-foot-tall height). Londoners thought it looked like an oversized pickle, and the derogatory nickname stuck.