Saturday, January 18, 2014

How well do you know your London skyline?

Can you name everything in this skyine? Don't worry- we'll give you an intro to some of London's most famous buildings. By the end, you'll be a pro!


Its been a while since my last post. I'd say it's been just crazy busy but I'm not sure that's entirely true. I've been sporadically busy and alternately lazy. My apologies.

We've been able to take several walks down in the city lately. I say 'down' in the city, and every time, I'm just amazed at the idea. We live 3.4 miles north of London bridge... from some of the most famous landmarks in the world! Granted, there are days the motion of the city are overwhelming and I find myself longing for a cornfield, but I am still shocked to hear myself mentioning places I'd only heard about in books and movies. But its real, its here, and so are we. It really is amazing!

Anyhoo, while walking through these streets, I'm constantly amazed at the architecture all around me. There are centuries of art found in the brick, granite, concrete, and glass that line the streets of London. I thought I'd point out a few we've seen lately. (By the way, these are 'touristy' photos, not art. My camera battery hasn't been charging, so I'm only using my iPhone. Please don't judge me!)

All right, we'll start with an easy one. It's from a different angle, but can you name this building?

I'm going to guess you said either one of two answers: 1. Big Ben or 2. Parliament Building. With which your response would be correct, but insufficient. The building is actually the Palace of Westminster. It is where Parliament meets (so #2 would be correct). For those who said Big Ben, here's a bit of confusing trivia. The tower was originally called St. Stephen's Tower, or the Clock Tower. In 2012, at Queen Elizabeths Diamond Jubilee, it was renamed Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the bell located in the top of the tower. Told you it was confusing. 

Here's another angle of the Big Westminster Ben, St Stephen, Elizabeth, Tower of Westminster from the other side. Can anyone tell what famous structure is at the left side of this picture?

It's the London Eye, (or the Millennium Wheel,  or one of three sponsoring names it's had since it was built.) Basically a £30 ferris wheel that gives you a great view of London.

All right, what about this?

Nope. Not London Bridge. Tower Bridge. (Don't you love how these Brits try to confuse us tourists?) London Bridge is actually a very uninteresting concrete structure that looks super boring but connects cool parts of town. Tower Bridge is the famous one, so called because of the Tower of London (aka: Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress), which has all kinds of history locked up in its walls. *Extra credit: neither of these bridges were involved the the collapses of nursery rhyme fame.*

All right, this one is for the movie buffs. It's a side view, but you should be able to pick it out if you know your films!

It's MI6! Can you see the rounded part in the front that was M's office that exploded in Skyfall?! We were surprised how small it was. And how close we could get to it. (We were with 15 feet at one point.) However, I'd assume the blocks/windows are pretty secure. I'm trying to decide if the US takes security more seriously, or if we just have more real estate to play with!

The following tower is the tallest in London (and the tallest in the EU). (Sorry you can only see half of it

The Shard- so named because it looks like a shard of glass piercing the city skyline. At least this name makes sense (and doesn't have 4 other names). I can see this building from my street, and it's a reminder of how close I really am to all the hubbub. Today we walked right past it to go to Maltby Street, a tiny foodie market on the south side of the Thames. So much fun!

Can you pick out the dome in the center? Any idea what that is?

What about in this picture?

That is St. Paul's Cathedral. Well, the new St. Paul's Cathedral. The old one was burned down in the great fire of 1666. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren (who rebuilt half of London after the fire), it now sits at the 'centre' of London on the Thames. Off on the right side you can see a few other skyscrapers. Ten points to whoever can name three of them.

Here's another angle:

We'll start from left to right. The curvy block on the left hand side is 20 Fenchurch Street, better known as The Walkie Talkie because of its funny shape. However, this past summer, the architects were in a bit of trouble with the concave glass tiles on the south side of the building reflected light in a concentrated area, melting bicycle seat, peeling paint, and damaging/melting the panels on some poor blokes Jaguar.

In the centre of the picture is 122 Leadenhall Street, or The Cheesegrater. You can't see it so much from the front, but a side view shows you why.

It's due to finish construction this year. And I'm starting to ask where architects are getting their ideas these days? What's next, the colander?

On the far side of the picture was a shiny oval-shaped building. Can you name it? Here's another shot: 

The Gherkin (or properly 30 St Mary Axe) is in the heart of London's financial district. It's faceted mirrors and torpedo shape make it seem to sparkle on sunny days. I like this building!

Across the corner from it stand a building exactly opposite in design. Where The Gherkin stands in sleek minimalistic beauty, Lloyds of London is a complicated steam-punk styled mass of blocks, tubes, and shafts.

Appropriately nicknamed The Inside-Out Building, Lloyds has all its utility workings on the exterior of the building. Plumbing, air-conditioning, elevators... all are housed in tubes and ductwork visible from the street below. It has an industrial flair to it, less artistic, but cool in its own way. The architect, Richard Rogers, also used a similar design for Paris' Pompidou Centre, using a different colour for each utility. The hubby and I thought the Lloyds building looks like something out of DC comics, though we were debating whether from Gotham or Metropolis. :-)

Just a street over is this little corner. In front of St. Helen's Bishopsgate (an evangelical church in downtown London) is this adorable courtyard. I felt like all it needed was a black and white filter and it could have been from a century ago!

Hope you've enjoyed your tour of London architecture. Hopefully with time I'll have some prettier pictures to share of each of these. But I had fun touring and thought I'd pass it on. Now if I can only keep all these names straight!

And... just for the fun of it, here's a picture out my back window.... a rainbow! :-)

I'm so grateful to be here. I can't believe I can call London my city!