6 old-new sojourns in London

London has often taken the No. 1 position as the most popular tourist city in the whole wide world: so many sights to see, so many things to do, so many adventures to experience. One of the interesting phenomena to observe in this big city, is the highly successful combination of old and new architecture. The coexistence of contemporary and historical architecture often sparks controversy, and even public outcry. However, where the new architecture gives new life and improved functionality, and respects the history and spirit of the old, the outcome can be very positive. Some keys to successful synergy, may be that the new does not completely overpower the old, and that the old and new are in visual and conceptual harmony. The most successful old-and-new combinations come to life where the old and the new are completely different, but where they are in dialogue with one another and create a sense of balance in the overall picture.

London, old and new: St Paul's

The Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral occupies a significant place in Britain’s national identity. The cathedral is one of the most famous and iconic sights of London. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it formed a major part of the rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. Its dome dominated the London skyline for 300 years and from 1710 to 1962 it was the tallest building in London.

Towards the end of the 20th century an international competition was held to design a new pedestrian bridge across the River Thames, linking The Tate Modern Gallery at Bankside with the City of London at St Paul’s, and it was opened in the first year of the new millennium. Using contemporary cutting edge design, the new 330 metre gleaming steel bridge has a profile six times shallower than a conventional suspension bridge, thus not at all diminishing the majestic view of St Paul’s Cathedral.

London, old and new: St Paul's & Millennium Bridge

The Shard and the Borough Market

The Shard is also referred to as the Shard of Glass or, by its tongue in cheek nickname, the Salt Cellar. This 95-storey skyscraper in Southwark forms part of the London Bridge Quarter development. Standing almost 310 metres tall, with the clouds often swirling around the pinnacle, the Shard has the highest and the best views of London, with a viewing platform that is almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in the capital. It resembles “a shard of glass that passes right through the heart” of historic London.

London, old and new: The Shard

And, right in the heart of historic London, near the revered Southwark Cathedral, metres from the foot of the Shard, is the Borough Market. The brownstone market buildings, under the railway lines, were designed in 1851, with an Art Deco entrance added on in 1932. Nowadays the market specializes in foods like British-reared meat, high quality dairy products and wonderful bakery creations.

London, old and new: Borough Market

London, old and new: Borough Market cheese

 

The Gherkin, the Cheese-Grater and the Walkie-Talkie

Londoners make a habit of using clever nicknames when referring to some of the landmarks in the city. Three of these contemporary and unorthodox skyscrapers tower above the decades-old, or age-old, traditional buildings in the financial district of the historic City of London. The skyline of London has irrevocably been changed, but it works!

One of London’s most eye-catching buildings is 30 St Mary Axe, generally known as The Gherkin. The Leaden Hall Building is a commercial skyscraper that is named The Cheese-Grater because of its distinctive wedge shaped design. 20 Fenchurch Street is a commercial skyscraper that has been nicknamed The Walkie-Talkie. The large and famous glass dome of the construction, consisting of three storeys of skilfully landscaped public gardens, is a tourism highlight. See if you can identify the three towers in the picture below!

London, old and new: Cheese-Gater, Gurcon, Walkie-Talkie

Winchester Palace

These ruins, near Southwark Cathedral, are all that remain of the palace of Winchester that housed the powerful bishops of the time in generous comfort whenever they stayed in London for business or work or on a retreat. It is one of the biggest and most important medieval buildings in the London of the 12th century. The majestic palace remained in use until the 17th century, when in was divided into apartments and warehouses. After a fire in London in the 19th century, the ruins were rediscovered and were finally revealed in the 1980s during refurbishment of the area. Meticulously linked to the new building, the craftsmanship of the medieval builders has been preserved for posterity. The very, very old and the new live together in harmony in Winchester Palace.

London, old and new: Winchester Palace1

London, old and new: Winchester Palace2

London, old and new: Winschester Palace3

Laban Dance Centre

Laban Dance Centre, the largest school for contemporary dance in the world, is a modern building that resembles movement, liveliness, supple lines and youth. However, the centre is located in south-east London, surrounded by deteriorating blocks of council flats, crumbling industrial warehouses and old scrapyards. Building, thus creating the new, is always an act of changing what exists, the old, and in this process relationships are formed. The architects took great care to cultivate a healthy relationship between the old and the new. They were sensitive to the history and existing structures in the area, such as the baroque Deptford St Paul’s Church, and even the flora and fauna of the adjacent Deptford Creek. For example, the roof provides a special habitat for the Black Redstart, one of the rarest birds in the UK.

London, old and new: Laban Centre1

The modern construction is distinguished by gently curving facades, clad in translucent glass panels.
Polycarbonate panels in subtle hues of lime, turquoise and magenta are mounted in front of the glass panels, giving the Laban Centre an almost supernatural glow. The traditional and well-weathered, dull brown surrounding buildings come to life and begin to dance as they are magically reflected in the glass panels…

London, old and new: Laban Dance Centre1

London, old and new: Laban Dance Centre2

John Stainer Community Primary School

John Stainer School was built as far back as 1884. After a complicated and often troubled history, the school was judged in 2012 to be outstanding in every area! The excellent school was bursting at the seams and to give more local children the opportunity to learn/study in an inspiring and modern environment, a whole new block had to be added to the traditional building. In the planning of the new wing, the philosophy was to preserve and respect the stylish historical building, and to find ways of complementing the existing structure with the ultra-modern, completely different cubic design of the new building.

London, old and new: John Stainer1

The piece d’resistance is the huge geodesic dome on the roof of the new building: a light and warm and happy place for the children of John Stainer School.

London, old and new:  John Stainer2

Tourists in London are reminded that the construction of new buildings does not relieve us of the responsibility to continue to take care of the old buildings and to preserve their historical and artistic value. Buy yourself a ticket, get onto the London Eye and observe for yourself how the old and the new can live happily side by side…

Celine Renaud is Head of Sales for Leo Trippi.

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Comments (9)

  1. Richard Eldred Hawes says:

    London will always be number one for me, inspite of all the other places in the World I have been to. Thre is such variety and there is always something new to see and investigate

  2. DANIELLE VEDMORE says:

    Beautiful pics! I love London – I love to visit and am so lucky that its only a 2 hour train ride away. I love the history of the place and always come back home more and more in love with the place.

  3. Maya Russell says:

    I love London’s old and new architectural styles. There is something for everyone. And I agree, a trip on the London Eye to see it all is well worth it.

  4. amy fidler says:

    just can’t beat the architecture of london,i find when i’m there,i’m always looking up xx as i don’t want to miss a thing x

  5. Dave says:

    Great post but I’m going to disagree slightly. I am really not sure the old and new work together that well in the examples you have shown. The Cheese-Grater and the The Gherkin are incredible buildings but do they add to the older properties in the area. Not for me but then I guess its all down to personal taste.

  6. Celine Renaud says:

    I really appreciate all the comments on the London blog. There will always be controversial opinions about the success of the combination of old and new architecture, but my hat off to London for daring to be so innovative! At the very least – it is never boring…

  7. Kevin says:

    St Paul’s is definitely one of the most famous and iconic sights of London. The first time I visited London I took a walk around the city centre. Incidentally I ended up in front of the cathedral at night time. It was so magical! I would never forget this moment.

  8. Katerina and JF says:

    So true and lovely of you to show us some of London’s architecture contrasts. We also bump into so many of them all the time and love this variety that makes the city so rich.

  9. Arun Sobti says:

    An informative article no doubt, but I feel that the word sojourn does not suit the title as it means a temporary stay. So where is the relevance?

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