A week or so ago I had an afternoon stroll through the City. I got off the tube at Holborn and headed east, down High Holborn, over Holborn Viaduct, along Newgate Street and Cheapside eventually to Leadenhall Street, where most of the most spectacular towers lurk, either on that street or nearby. From there I made my way down to St Katherine’s Dock and Tower Bridge, which was heaving with tourists – a contrast to the near-deserted City on a Saturday afternoon.
The architecture of the City is a rather brutal pleasure, but I enjoy the angles, the reflections in the glass walls and the juxtaposition of old and new. It’s all a bit of a mess – no Cartesian planning in London – but that mess throws up all sorts of interesting contrasts. Here are a few of the photos I took – converted to black and white for the contrast, and just the hell of it!
This one’s looking down Farringdon Street from Holborn Viaduct.
Old Bailey, with One Blackfriars in the background.
It’s all over the place down by Bank. Royal Exchange in the foreground.
Cheesegrater on the right. Nat West Tower on the left used to be the tallest when I worked in the City in the 1980s. No longer!
Opposite the Cheesegrater we have the Scalpel.
The Gherkin looms over St Andrew Undershaft church, which pre-dates the Fire of London. It survived that and the Blitz and is still hanging on.
The Walkie Talkie is never far away.
Lloyds of London from Lime Street.
The City from near Tower Bridge. Still a mess!
Bishopsgate is looking increasingly like an avenue in Manhattan.
But the old and new combo has its attractions as you say.
Nat West tower is now called Tower 42 and is a relative stump.
Tower 42 – how meaningless!
A brutal pleasure indeed. I like that line.
Yes, mess is the word – though without a grid like Manhattan, or strict zoning like Paris, this stuff goes more or less where it pleases. I’m just glad you can still see the Roman city, the medieval city, Shakespeare’s city and a dozen others on one long ramble.
In a place like Shanghai, many wonderful old buildings have been simply bulldozed away by the march of progress. At least, in London, these monsters sometime have to tiptoe around the ancient gems.