Every city has its magnificent skyscrapers and astonishing building designs that make it stand out amongst the skylines of the world. Central London is certainly no different, and it features many unique works of architecture, both tall and small, old and new. From glittering office buildings to parking garages, you can find some very interesting buildings throughout this part of the UK capital. Come with us as we show off some of these impressive structures, and if you think we’ve left anything out, you can share your own suggestions with us in the comments.
Officially known as 30 St. Mary Axe, the building also known as the Towering Innuendo and the Crystal Phallus, was designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2004. Its name comes from the fruit of the same name, referencing the odd shape of the structure. The swirling pattern on the outside of the building is actually part of the Gherkin’s energy-conscious designs and carries pockets of air through shafts that produce a double-glazing effect, drawing warm air out of the building during summer and keeping it in during the winter. One of the best parts of the building is the bar on the 40th floor, enclosed by a glass dome that offers building tenants a 360-degree view of the city.
NCP Car Park
You wouldn’t think a parking garage could make this list, but the NCP Car Park at 74 Welbeck Street certainly doesn’t look like your average concrete monstrosity. Architects at Michael Blampied and Partners gave the building a Brutalist style like no other, showing the potential the technique has for beauty. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see it now since it was demolished beginning in 2019.
The Tate Modern is as much itself a work of art as the paintings and sculptures inside it. It started out its life as the Bankside Power Station, and as London’s electrical needs modernized, the power station was revitalized into a museum of modern art. It opened in 200 and expanded in 2004. In addition to the copious amounts of art galleries, you can also find an auditorium, a café, and even a community garden.
One of the more famous structures on this list, it houses the insurance firm Lloyds of London. The building was designed by Richard Rogers and built from 1978 to 1986, and was unusual and innovative in that it put its services, such as electrical conduits, stairs, and pipes on the outside of the building to free up space on the inside. At its heart is a rectangular building, surrounded by three towers, which each have a service tower. The building’s twelve glass elevators were the first of their kind in London.
Officially known as 5 Thurloe Square, the Thin House in South Kensington is a unique block of flats. The building itself is a triangle-like shape, and the thinnest part is only 6 feet wide. If you stand at just the right angle, it can look like the whole building is incredibly skinny and that no one could actually live there. However, it is, in fact, quite roomy, and flats there fetch an incredible price of nearly one million pounds.
M by Montcalm
And speaking of buildings that create an optical illusion, the M by Montcalm Hotel is certainly in this category. According to the hotel’s website, the contemporary design captures “the creative energy of Shoreditch.” Its diamond shape is meant to pay homage to Tate Modern artist Bridget Riley, using geographic shapes and blending transparency and opaqueness to create a visually stunning structure.
Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate
This housing estate in Camden is another Brutalist structure that makes the list, although, unlike the former NPC Car Park, you can still visit this place. It opened in 1968 and was designed as ziggurat-style terraces, making them unique amongst London’s residences of the period. The estate earned Grade II listed status in the 1990s and has featured in numerous films and television series.
The Chinese Garage in Beckenham is more an automotive garage and gas station than a parking garage, at least when it was first constructed in 1928. Despite the name, it was actually designed in the style of a Japanese pagoda, and its actual name was the Langley Garage up until 1989. After this, the Grade II listed building was a car dealership and now operates as a wine shop.
Victorian Bath House
Perhaps the oldest structure on this list, the Victorian Bath House in Bishopsgate, was constructed in the 19th Century to meet the demand for more baths and washhouses. The Victorian Bath House was designed after a Turkish bathhouse, which was the fad in the late-Victorian period. Most of the building is actually underground and today serves as a for-hire event venue complete with a stage, cocktail bars, and a lounge.
The Shard is easily London’s tallest building and has a little bit of everything in it, from offices to shops and even a hotel with restaurants. The building’s history started in 1998 with a plan to redevelop the area around Southwark Towers. The initial design sketch was a sharp spike reaching up into the clouds, and the building’s name comes from it looking like a piece of jagged glass. Opened in 2012, the Shard celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and would be well worth a visit, no matter how high up you feel comfortable going.