Guarding London Wall

Moor House acts as a gateway to London Wall.  It is a building by Foster and Partners that is best appreciated from the top of another building.  At street level it is a little overwhelming and the astonishing curved wall and roof are difficult to see properly.  It was built in anticipation of Crossrail arriving in the basement so it has some of the scale of Canary Wharf Jubilee Line station by the same architect.  It is part of the recent generation of buildings along London Wall that have replaced the post war set of six almost identical tower blocks lining this street.  Peter Ackroyd in his biography of London, talks of the way in which the Barbican Estate of the 1960s was built looking inwards to avoid the wastelands of the Blitz and of how the old London Wall has been replicated by the new Estate.  This comment is equally true of Moor House, it is Barbican-like in the way in which it safeguards the City but it is also pretty sensational in the way in which it swoops across the street.

Golden Lane waits for the builders

Here is a great view of Golden Lane Estate with the swimming pool at its centre.  Work is due to start any minute on restoration.  There is some nervousness about this.  The plans involve making some significant changes. At present it is easy to walk around the site at two levels.  The lower level space between the sports hall and the swimming pool is due to be blocked in with a dance studio.  The roof will also have photovoltaic panels and all of the windows will be replaced with double glazed versions.  It should be good but will the windows look right or will they be out of character?  Will the dance studio destroy the lightness and fluidity of the current arrangement?  Will the panels on the roof look ungainly and inappropriate and will they generate enough electricity to make their installation worth while.  The problem with much-loved places is that they lead to conservatism from those who want to preserve a quality which it is feared will be lost with the improvements.  Has the Festival Hall been ruined by its new stage and the removal of the acoustic canopy?  Is the Barbican worse off because of its orange paint work.  Golden Lane Leisure Centre will be a test case for matching elegant restoration with the joy of moving through water. (Picture: Tim Crocker).

Room with a view

This is a view of a building not yet complete but likely to have an interesting impact on the City.  It is the new headquarters building for Rothschild’s Bank.  Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the top of the building which is a boardroom for the bank is placed on stilts above the main office block.  The view from Bank and from across the Thames is pretty sensational; the view from the boardroom undoubtedly even better.

School days at the Barbican Centre

Work on the overhaul of the Barbican Centre was completed nearly two years ago.  The changes to the building were significant – a new bridge was installed to connect Silk Street and Riverside entrances; bold graphics were used to sign each of the floors and main venues; and the pointillist walls and carpets were replaced with bold oranges and reds. The improvements were major and muscular, not only making it easier to move around the building but visually stunning.  So a great surprise to see the way in which the Riverside Cafe has recently been transformed into a 1950s style canteen cum classroom.  School chairs, a blackboard, American diner-style benches and these light fittings based on pickle jars, have created a retro atmosphere slightly out of style with the building. The cafe is now billed as a food hall.  Perhaps the design is intended as a refuge from the hammered concrete and wide open spaces of the foyers.


In the deep end at Golden Lane

Work is due to start tomorrow on the restoration of Golden Lane Leisure Centre.  The Centre contains the only public swimming pool in the City.  The campaign to resist its closure led to 850 responses to the consultation which convinced the Corporation (which owns it) to invest £2.6 million on the restoration.  The changes have been controversial with the architects originally proposing to fill in the space between  the pool and the badminton court.  There will now  be changes to this listed building but of a modest nature.  Meanwhile, every swim now requires a bus trip up to the west end.

Freezing outside the Lloyds Building

A freezing night but one of the most spectacular and exciting moments of the week.  Here is the Lloyds Building next to its recently-completed neighbour the Wills Building.  This is the centre of new building in the city.  Lloyds is now more than twenty-five years old and it overlooks the site of two new buildings: Leadenhall also known as the ‘cheesegrater’ and the Pinnacle, both of which are after a delay of a couple of years, now on site.

A new year’s day walk through the City

Leadenhall Market

A new year’s day demands a new year’s walk. This took me along the newly built Cheapside past One New Change and on to the Bank of England and Leadenhall Market (pictured above).  I was on the look out for changes in the public realm rather than than new buildings so, although One New Change has revolutionised Cheapside and brought Banana Republic and Top Shop to the oldest market street in London, the bigger story was a greatly widened pavement and half a dozen new trees.  The street will eventually be tree-lined but for the moment there is a small commitment to the national tree planting campaign although I expect that these were planned a long time before the new government decided to be a little greener than the last.

The path next goes alongside the Royal Exchange building.  This is now luxury clothing and coffee shops.  It is difficult to see in which way this is public.  There is a municipal square at the front and a rather fine water pump to the side.  The statue of American banker and housing philanthropists George Peabody dominates the space behind the Royal Exchange, a reminder of a time when bankers chose to be philanthropic.

Leadenhall Market is a curious place, at first site an ancient City market with space to hang pheasant and sell groceries, now as much a commercial shopping centre as One New Change, Pizza Express nestles between the City of London Corporation insignia.  This temple to well managed produce now another home to franchised pizza.

A quick turn past the Lloyds Building and the site of both the ‘Pinnacle’ and the ‘Grater’ both of which are now on site again, and the forecourt of Foster’s building by the Tower of London, a rather dismal landscape and a home to a Gourmet Burger restaurant.  This leads to the strangely named Tower of London Environs, a large and windswept expanse of granite linking the ticket offices to the Tower of London.


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