As a world financial centre and the largest city in the European Union, London has an extraordinary amount of wealth flowing through it. As a consequence, the skyline of this city changes constantly as multinational corporations and their designers strive to build the largest, the tallest and the most interesting buildings in the world. Here are a few of the best:
The “Swiss Re” Building – Known to locals as “The Gherkin, ” this building combines the best of modern architectural sensibilities with the latest in 21st century engineering skill. The building resembles either a rocket ship or a pickle, depending on who you ask. It’s composed of triangular window sections in a rotating, diamond like pattern. No tour nor skyline photo of London is complete without this iconic building.
The Shard – Completed less than a year ago, the Shard is now the tallest building in the European Union at over 300 metres (1000 feet). Its towering and spire-like shape attracted admirers and detractors alike. In fact, a comment made by some traditionalists bemoaning its neo-modern architecture as “a shard of glass in the heart of historic London” gave the structure its popular name.
The Energy Centre – Developed in response to the demands of environmentalists to diminish the effect of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the Energy Centre building combines an industrial aestheticism with a very functional purpose. The building uses a variety of technologies from wastewater recycling cooling to biomass generated heat to provide a comfortable environment in its associated buildings.
West India Quay at Canary Wharf – Envisioned as a dual hotel/residential structure, this building has dominated the Canary Wharf area of London for the past decade. It’s noted for its slim design that gives all visitors and apartment dwellers a view of both the north and south sides of London. In addition, the building’s arched top makes it one of the most recognisable buildings in the city. If you’re visiting London, the best way to get a view of West India Quay is from one of the many Thames boat tours which usually go past Canary Wharf.
The London Aquatics Centre – It’s truly amazing what can transpire when an architect is given free rein to follow their inspiration. The London Aquatics Centre, built for the 2012 Olympics, is one such result. Shaped like a rolling wave, this building inspires movement from every angle – within as well as without. The Centre is open to the public but the best thrills are seen from outside.
Fenchurch Tower – Known variously as “The Pint” and the “Walkie-Talkie Building” because of its distinctive shape, the Fenchurch tower is still under construction, but is already both dizzying and dazzling. Much wider at the top than at the base, the tower is notable for its emphasis on design over functionality. In fact, the architect, Rafael Vinoly, has been stridently criticised from both sides – one side finds him too environmentally conscious while the other dismisses his seemingly misguided “green” efforts.
The Heron Tower – Reminiscent of many of the downtown skyscrapers of the 1990s, the Heron Tower is anything but. It incorporates a whole host of eco-conscious features such as photovoltaic arrays to generate its own power and a state-of-the-art water reclamation plant. The building is also renowned for the aesthetic use of its structural components. If you do visit it, be sure to run inside and view the 70, 000 litre aquarium that houses a population of over 1, 200 tropical fish.
Written by Thomas Edwards. Thomas has been an international traveller since the early ‘80s. He has travelled across Europe, the USA and as far afield as Thailand, Hong Kong and China. He has written as a business, individual and family traveller and a language or two has given him the opportunity to engage with locals in most places he visits.