The London Icons That Are Not Really Very Iconic

M@
By M@ Last edited 19 months ago
The London Icons That Are Not Really Very Iconic

What does it mean for a building to be iconic? Must it be universally recognised, steeped in history or towering in reputation? The word gets more dilute as the years go on. The family of London icons today extends way beyond the likes of Big Ben and Tower Bridge, with many office blocks and residential schemes now billed as iconic. Let's take a look.


This is the Old Street roundabout (a few years back). By any standards, it's a grubby, noisy place in dire need of its proposed redevelopment. It's also iconic. So say any number of websites.

The buildings beside the roundabout have taken on the same status. The nearby coffee house Shoreditch Grind is iconic. The under-construction White Collar Factory is iconic. The curvy Bezier Apartments on the south-east corner are iconic. They look iconically like a pair of buttocks complete with rectally placed entrance.

Iconic, or colonic?

At least Old Street Roundabout is emblematic — and therefore in a sense iconic — of the tech startup scene. Often dubbed the 'Silicon Roundabout', the area does carry some kind of fame beyond its immediate vicinity. That cannot be said of all London's iconic buildings.

Witness, for example, the 'iconic Octagon Point'. This eight-sided office block was recently renovated by Alan Sugar (we assume he had help — it's definitely too big for one craggy old man to tackle on his own). It opened last year, with such iconic trappings as 'four state-of-the-art meeting rooms' and a flourishing branch of the Co-Op. Here's how it looked just before Alan got his grouting gun out:

It's the one on the right.

These aren't London's only iconic offices. Oh no. Here's a whole Pinterest board full of them. We particularly like this little number on Baker Street. It's so iconic that the entire workforce has to leave by 2.30 every day, just so that journalists can come and photograph its iconic interior.

In a city like London, even non-existent buildings can be iconic. Take London Square, out in Putney. This 'distinctive modernist development of 113 one, two and three bedroom cutting-edge apartments' is still under construction, yet it was described two years ago as 'an exciting and iconic' new building. What right-thinking person could disagree?

Isn't it iconic, dontcha think?

We could fill a whole second internet with over-egged descriptions from estate agents and developers. To take one more example, though, how do you fancy renting one of the 'stunning' apartments in this 'iconic new development' next to Kingston Bridge? Expect to see it on postcards and t-shirts soon. It's THAT iconic.

Speaking of Kingston Bridge... Among London's crossings, surely only Tower Bridge, and possibly the Millennium Bridge, can be considered iconic? Not so. Blackfriars Bridge is one of London's most iconic, according to Lastminute.com. OK, we can just about live with that. It does have a certain Victorian grandeur. But we can't bring ourselves to concur that Southwark Bridge is iconic. Can you picture Putney Bridge in your mind's eye? You should be able to, because it too is iconic, and it leads to the iconic London Square. The Daily Mail finds Richmond Bridge to be iconic (and no doubt carcinogenic) while workaday Vauxhall Bridge is described by this site as both iconic and an 'exclusive world location'. Every square inch of the planet is an exclusive world location.

Putney Bridge. Iconic.

Finally, Londontopia points us towards the Economist Plaza in St James's. Not only is the building one of London's 'most iconic', it is also 'one of the most prominent examples of urban design anywhere in the world in 2015'. It must have come on somewhat since we took this photo in 2009.

This article was written from Londonist Towers, an iconic open plan office in Shoreditch with iconic views of the iconic converted warehouse building over the iconic street.

Last Updated 16 May 2016

Clunking Fist

The manhole covers are iconic, too. You sometimes see people doing rubbings of them...

Kevin Abbott

Slightly ironically having actually seen the finished building in Putney, just stand across the road and look at it, there is so much more to it, the longer you look at it, iconic not sure but it's a hell of more complex than most new residential buildings being built in london....

Pussycontrol1234

Also a big shout out to "luxury" apartment blocks.