10 of the Coolest Buildings in London

by JJ
Top Things to do in London in 2 Days

It is an undisputed fact that London is home to some of the best buildings in the world. London architecture has, for a long time, influenced the way that that other cities around the world have taken shape. Below we have decided to comprise a list of what we think is the coolest architecture in London, from the likes of the futuristic Lloyds building to the brutalist Trellick Tower. 

London has always been a key figure in heralding a new era of architecture, and over the years many of the best architects have stemmed from the capital city. The likes of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster grew up in the city that ultimately shaped their future designs, while architectural pioneers such as Zaha Hadid and Christopher Wren have notable designs across the city.

Below we have scoured the city for the buildings that we think deserve a spot on our list comprising the best architecture in London. From brutalist works of art such as Trellick Tower (which may surprise some people) to Renzo Piano’s Shard, which stands as London’s tallest building.

Lloyd’s Building

The current Lloyd’s Building is one of the most interesting pieces of architecture in London. It was built between 1978 and 1986 after the previous Lloyd’s building was demolished to make way for a brand new development, which was designed by London-based architect Richard Rogers.

The Lloyd’s Building now sits at 1 Lime Street, right in the heart of the city and has been hailed for many years as one of the finest pieces of architecture in the world. It is very similar to the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which was actually designed by Renzo Piano in conjunction with Richard Rogers, in that it essentially flips the way in which we typically conceive a building. The stairs, lifts, ductwork, electrical power conduits and water pipes all exist on outside of the building, allowing for a fuss-free interior.

The building consists of three towers which are centred around the main rectangular Underwriting Room, which is a fine piece of architecture in itself. The 60 metre atrium has a huge glass roof and is surrounded by galleries.

The building has been used in films such as Mamma Mia, Avengers and Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Trellick Tower

This might come as a surprise to some people, but the Trellick Tower is high up there as one of London’s finest buildings. Architecture in London varies across the board and Trellick Tower is a fine example of the Brutalist era at its best.

Opened in 1972, it was designed by architect Erno Goldfinger and stands as a follow-up to the architect’s Balfron Tower in Tower Hamlets. This was the last major building he worked on and came at a time when Brutalist architecture was getting a bit of a thumbs down due the many of the estates that took the form being associated with crime, vandalism, drug abuse and prostitution.

It is a local landmark and poses a stark contrast to its nearby Notting Hill neighbours, but either way it has been granted a Grade II listing. Due to its height and location, the building grew in popularity from the 1990s and while much of it is still social housing, the demand for a private residence within the tower has increased dramatically.

20 Fenchurch Street

20 Fenchurch Street is a skyscraper based in the City Of London and it is one of the buildings that dominates the capital’s skyline. Completed in 2014 and designed by Rafael Vinoly, the structure has a distinctive shape that makes it appear as if it is bursting upwards and outwards. Due to this, it has been labeled the ‘walkie talkie’ ever since its completion.

It stands at 160 metres, which was scaled down from the original plans which saw it stand at 200 metres (this was due to fears it would tarnish the view of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower Of London).  In 2015, it was awarded the Carbuncle Cup for the worst new building in the UK in the previous 12 months.

Atop the building sits the Sky Garden which has been named as London’s highest public park. The garden spans the top three floors and consists of bars and restaurants. It is undoubtedly one of the best views that London can offer and provides undisturbed views towards the Shard and down to Canary Wharf.

Tate Modern 

The Tate is a family of galleries that stretch across London, Liverpool and St Ives (two in London and one in each other other other cities). The one we are really interested in is the Tate Modern which sits on London’s South Bank. It is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world and is housed in one of London’s best buildings.

It is housed inside the Bankside Power Station which was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect behind Battersea Power Station. It was built in two stages between 1947 and 1963, but closed in 1981. The design is one of a kind. It is a 200 metre long still framed, brick-clad building with a substantial and dominant central chimney. The structure was divided into three main areas – the huge main Turbine Hall in the centre, with the boiler house to the north and the switch house to the south.

It was nearly demolished, but in 1994 it was announced that the Tate Modern would sit inside the structure. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron were the architects given the task of developing the site. In 2016, an extension, the Switch House, was completed. It sits at 10 stories and was designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

The Shard 

One of London’s most famous buildings is undoubtedly the Shard. Also known as the Shard Of Glass, it is the tallest building in the European Union, the fifth tallest building in Europe and the 96th tallest building in the world. The Shard is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, examples of modern architecture in London.

London-based entrepeneur Irvine Sellar and architect Renzo Piano are the men behind the structure. At the time there was an inquest into the whether the building should be built, and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (at the time) opened the enquiry which was eventually approved. The government stated that, ‘Mr Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design. For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of its design is critical. He is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural quality.’

The building is designed to resemble a spike emerging from the River Thames. Piano’s design met a large amount of criticism from English Heritage, who claimed the building would be ‘a shard of glass through the heart of historic London.’ This in turn gave the building its name, The Shard. The architect was inspired by the London spires as they were depicted by the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto, as well as the masts of sailing ships.

The building features 11,000 panes of glass, with a total surface area of 602,779 square feet which is the equivalent to almost eight Wembley Stadium football pitches. Following the devastating events surrounding New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001, the Shard became one of the first new buildings to have its construction evaluated, making it safer and able to withstand certain damage.

Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre stands as one of London’s coolest and most photographed buildings. It is simply gigantic and has become a favourite for Instagram lovers across the world. Like the aforementioned Trellick Tower, it was designed in the Brutalist style, this time by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

The building has been built in the Ziggurat style, which is a type of massive stone structure built in ancient Mesopotamia. It has the form of a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels. It is essentially a huge grey concrete structure which has been met with divided opinion. In 2003 it was labelled as London’s ugliest building.

It stands as a world-renowned arts centre as well as a housing estate. The three main towers are where you will find some of London’s most sought after flats, despite it once being a social housing estate.

Leadenhall Building 

122 Leadenhall Street in the City Of London is home to the Leadenhall Building, also known as The Cheesegrater. The skyscraper sits opposite the Lloyd’s Building and was designed in conjunction with one of its architects, Richard Rogers.

The Leadenhall Building is 225 meters tall with 48 floors and resembles a giant wedge. The new tower features a tapered glass façade on one side which reveals steel bracings, and it appears as though the building is literally tied to the ground on one side, as opposed to other new builds (such as the Shard) that have central concrete block giving them stability.

30 St Mary Axe

You probably don’t know the Gherkin by its proper name, but there you have it. 30 St Mary Axe is now one of the most recognisable buildings on the planet thanks to its unique design and structure. It was completed in 2003 and opened in 2004 and consists of 42 stories, standing at 180 metres tall. It epitomises the way in which contemporary architecture in London has turned out in recent years.

Foster and Partners were the chosen architectural firm for the job when then council decided that the previous plot needed to change. The site previously held the Baltic Exchange which had been damaged by an IRA bomb and developers realised that the former building was beyond recoverable. This gave way for a new architectural delight, which happened to become the Gherkin. The top dome of 30 St Mary Axe is an homage to the dome of the Baltic Exchange, much of which is now on display at the National Maritime Museum.

Leadenhall Market 

Leadenhall Market is one of the oldest markets in London and dates back to the 14th Century and sits in the City Of London, in stark contrast to the myriad of new builds and modern skyscrapers. It stands on what was once the centre of Roman London.

The roof structure is extremely ornate and has been painted green, maroon and cream. The cobbled floors of the current structure were designed in 1881 by Sir Horace Jones (who was also the architect behind Billingsgate and Smithfield Markets), making Leadenhall Market a tourist attraction. Gracechurch Street is where you will find the main entrance – a grand, double height entrance flanked by tall, narrow gabled red brick and Portland stone blocks in a 17th Century Dutch style, making this an extremely unique part of London’s architecture and one of the more popular London architecture walks.

It is notable that the market was used in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, filmed as the area surrounding the Leaky Cauldron pub and Diagon Alley.

City Hall

The building in which London’s city hall is encased is an unusual one. It has been described as a woodlouse, a misshapen egg and a helmet, but it still stands as one of the cool pieces of architecture in London. Ken Livingstone called it the ‘glass testicle’ and Boris Johnson, in true fashion, called it ‘the glass gonad’.

It was designed by renowned architect Norman Foster and is not dissimilar to his work on the Reichstag in Berlin. A 500 metre helical walkway ascends the full ten stories, which provides interior views of the building and was inspired by the concept of transparency – something which Foster built into the Reichstag. At the top is an exhibition and meeting space called “London’s Living Room”, with an open viewing deck which is occasionally open to the public.

Using in-camera HDR in low light.

10 of the Coolest Buildings in London

  • Lloyd’s Building
  • Trellick Tower
  • 20 Fenchurch Street
  • Tate Modern
  • The Shard 
  • The Barbican Centre
  • The Leadenhall Building 
  • 30 St Mary Axe
  • Leadenhall Market
  • City Hall

On That Note 

Above we have given you our top ten pieces of the best London architecture, whether it’s new London architecture or some of the older delights. From the likes of the ‘Gherkin’ and the ‘Cheesegrater’ to more historic wonders such as Leadenhall Market and the Tate Modern, this list has all the best that London has to offer with regards to architecture.

Feature image from Pinterest

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