The Men Who Built London Part 1

Celebrating some of the men whose work helps define the city I love, from the Baroque masters to those still changing the fabric of London today.
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Our capital is a pop-up history book, a hodgepodge of mismatched buildings which fit together to form what can only be described as 'London'. Our cityscape has survived fires, wars, riots and devastation only to emerge each time bolder than before. Here are some of the men whose work defines the city I love.

Christopher Wren (1632 - 1723)

Any discussion about London's structural history would be incomplete without our most beloved architect, Christopher Wren. Even 300 years after his magnificent St Paul's Cathedral (pictured) was completed, we still present it to our schoolchildren as the finest example of building design in our capital today. Wren was an accomplished scholar, specialising in mathematics and astronomy, and well travelled. While on trips to continental Europe he was exposed to the flourishing Baroque movement in France and Italy, which he applied to the London churches he had been commissioned to rebuild after the great fire. Aside from St Paul's, other notable examples of Wren's work in London include Greenwich Hospital, Temple Bar gateway (Paternoster Square) and a cluster of surviving City churches.

Robert Adam (1728 - 1792)

Raised in Scotland by their architect father William Adam, brothers Robert, John and James defined a classic period in British design history, influencing architecture across the Western world. Robert, the eldest of all three, was arguably the most prominent here in London, designing two of our best loved Georgian squares in St James's and Fitzroy. Drawing influence from the themes of ancient Europe, Adam capitalised on the building boom of the 18th century by adapting the classic, almost rigid Palladian style into a more decorative fashion. Adam's main influence however could be found inside the homes he built, where daring colour schemes, intricate motifs and refined furniture made for some of the most beautiful interior design seen before or since.



The Men Who Built London Part 2

The Barbican: In Defence Of London's Ugliest Building

Alfred Waterhouse (1830 - 1905)

An architect specialising in the Victorian wow factor. Waterhouse designed one of 19th century London's most impressive creations, The Natural History Museum, which opened in 1881. A close look reveals the familiar terracotta exterior to be decorated with intricate sculptures depicting members of the animal kingdom (though there's speculation as to where they stand in relation to Darwin's theory of evolution, a dividing point among academics at the time), and the sheer vastness is overwhelming. Another of Waterhouse's great London buildings the red brick Prudential Assurance building (pictured above) in Holborn, a perfect example of Victorian neo-Gothic, a style which is familiar throughout London.


Richard Seifert (1910 - 2001)

In recent times, London has seen all manner of shouty, mismatched shapes competing for a place in its once picturesque skyline: the Shard, the Cheese Grater, and soon the Pinnacle. Depending on your viewpoint, Richard Seifert is probably the man to either thank or blame. London was in fact a late starter in the high-rise world due to height restrictions on buildings put in place by Queen Victoria, which weren't lifted until the 1960s. This new liberalism paved the way for London's first skyscrapers, including the Seirfert designed Center Point. Unsurprisingly Londoners hated it at the time, finding it not only aesthetically offensive but also ethically, representing for many the corporate greed of the property market. Seirfert went one better in the 1980s and designed the Natwest Tower, the pinstriped phallic monument to capitalism now known as Tower 42. which was the tallest building in the City of London.


Richard Rogers (Born 1933)

Equally as controversial as he is innovative, Richard Rogers' buildings have come to symbolise the contention which surrounds modernist architecture. His 1980 Lloyds building is still, 30 years on, a radical inclusion in a traditional district, whose 'inside-out' design has earned it the less than complimentary nickname 'The Oil Refinery'. Another controversial project with which Rogers' name is associated is the infamous Millenium Dome, which opened in 2000. While the project and accompanying exhibition were deemed failures and ridiculed by the public, the tent-like structure which Rogers designed has become one of the UK's most recognisable landmarks and was a milestone in modern engineering.