For many years, a wonderful secret has resided in a basement beneath the Guildhall. This highly detailed 3D model of London, used by planners, developers and architects, has been off-limits to the public, except for rare open days. From 23 April it will be freely open every week for anyone who cares to take a look.
And you should take a look — it's fascinating on many levels. Stretching from Holborn to Wapping, the scale model gives a superb overview of the different styles of architecture that make up central London. It also looks ahead, including any building that has received planning permission. Many towers under construction are here shown complete. Below we snapped the 'Can of Ham', soon to rise next to fellow picnic-able skyscraper, the Gherkin.
The model also allows visitors to pick out the protected sightlines that supposedly prevent the dome of St Paul's from getting lost in the skyline (they don't work, in our opinion; there's always a crane or two rising behind). You can see in the shot below how the Cheesegrater and Scalpal towers slope backwards to protect the view from Fleet Street.
Public opening of the model is managed by New London Architecture, whose equally impressive model you might have visited on Store Street, near Tottenham Court Road. Both models are built by the talented folk at Pipers. Here, the buildings are colour coded. Pre-war estate is in the lightest shade while more recent buildings are dark. The colourful, glowing buildings are typically the newest of all, and are paid for by the developers behind each individual project.
The model can be viewed for free any Friday or Saturday by visiting the newly opened City Centre at 80 Basinghall Street, next to the Guildhall. The centre will run regular public exhibitions and events about the urban realm. The eye- and nose-catching debut exhibition looks at the garden city, and is covered in a separate article.
The City Centre, 80 Basinghall Street, EC2V 5AR. Gallery open Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; model of London open Fri-Sat, 10am-5pm. Entrance is free.