The London skyline is absolutely iconic and instantly recognisable thanks to the notable architecture of Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square. But London is also embracing the modern with a clutch of modern architectural wonders – some which divide opinion and some which have become new modern landmarks.
The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP
Or to give it the correct name – 30 St Mary Axe (also previously known as the Swiss Re Building) although everybody refers to it simply as the Gherkin. Designed by legendary British architect Norman Foster, the Gherkin initially attracted a fair amount of controversy due to its shape but I personally think it’s beautiful – when you head into London from the East of England, this is the first London landmark you see. Opened in 2004 in the heart of London’s financial district, the Gherkin skyscraper has 41 floors and stands at 591 feet (180 meters) tall. Clad in 24,000 square metres of glass, the gherkin is not open to the public, except during the annual Open House London event.
The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, SE1
The newest modern landmark on the block is the Shard which stands in the London borough of Southwark. The 72 storey skyscraper reaches a dizzying height of 1,012 feet (308 meters) making it the tallest building in London (currently!) The shard officially opened in June 2012 although tickets up to the four floors of viewing platforms only opened to the public in February 2013. With awesome views over London, the Shard was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, who also designed the Pompidou center. Tickets cost from £25 (around 40 USD). Don’t worry; there are plenty of free and budget-friendly things to do in London too during your visit!
City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA
Located right on the south bank of the River Thames in the London borough of Southwark is the thoroughly modern City Hall building. Opened in July 2002, the City Hall is the official office of the London Mayor; Boris Johnson. Again designed by the architect Sir Norman Foster, the City Hall has a viewing deck which is occasionally open to the public. The main building is usually open to the public from Monday to Friday as is a must-see attraction.
Canary Wharf Tower, E14 5EW
The central structure of the modern Canary Wharf development is One Canada Square, aka Canary Wharf Tower. Instantly recognisable in the lineup thank to its distinctive pyramid roof, the building held the tallest UK skyscraper honour for 10 years from 1990 to 2010. At 50 storeys and 771 feet (235 meters) tall, it towers over East London. Opened in 1991, it was created by the legendary architect César Pelli, who is credited with creating the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Cajasol Tower in Seville.
Millennium Dome, Greenwich Peninsula, London
Simply referred to as ‘The Dome’, the thoroughly modern structure caused much controversy during the 1990s. Shrouded in problems with finance, visitor numbers and construction delays, the Dome now happily houses the O2 entertainment complex. Opened in time for the mammoth Millennium Eve party on 31 December 1999, the main dome stretches 365m (1200ft).
British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
The UK’s national library occupies a large chunk of real estate in northwest London. The building itself may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the sheer diversity of items held here cannot be disputed. In fact there are over 150 million journals, newspapers and books from across the world. The architectural style is described as ‘Brutalist’ (block-like and concrete-heavy) and opened to the public in 1998. More than 3 million new items are added each year. Treasures include the Magna Carta, the notebook of Leonardo da Vinci and priceless Beatles manuscripts. The British Library is open to the public 7 days a week .
London Eye, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
The tallest Ferris wheel within Europe stands on London’s South Bank area. The modern cultural landmark offers fantastic panoramic views over the capital. It opened to the public in March 2000 and stands at 135 meters (443 feet) tall. The Eye has 32 capsules that can each hold 25 people. The capsules can be hired for a private party or special occasion both day and night. With over 3.5 million annual visitors, it’s advisable to book in advance with standard online admission prices costing from £17.28.