In Illustrations: Modern Designs That Defined London

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 20 months ago
In Illustrations: Modern Designs That Defined London

The immaculately-illustrated coffee table tome Modern London whisks us through decades of London design — from industrial art deco palaces, to skyscrapers not long topped-out. Here's a selection of our favourites.

Morden Station, Charles Holden, 1926

Charles Holden was the auteur of London's tube stations during the 1920s and 30s. Working in cahoots with the great Frank Pick, he dreamed up clean-lined facades like Morden's, and space-age flying saucers like the station at Southgate.

Hoover Building; Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, 1933

The cause of many a double-take from those zooming along the A40. The Hoover Building is a totally unexpected art deco palace, which has earned itself the honour of having an Elvis Costello penned about it. It then became a Tesco and is currently being converted into residential accommodation.

Royal Festival Hall; Robert Matthew, Leslie Martin, Pete Moro, 1951

A real Marmite building, although most would agree that the Royal Festival Hall is more comely when bathed in coloured lights at night, as it has been in recent years. The acoustics inside are a fine feat of engineering.

AEC Routemaster, 1954

Without a doubt the most iconic of all London buses. It was operated by a driver and a conductor, who stood on the open boarding platform at the back. The (relatively) reliable buses served on London's streets for an unbelievable 49 years. You can still catch heritage Routemasters on route 15.

Post Office Tower, Eric Bedford and G.R. Yeats, 1965

St Paul's Cathedral had dominated London's skyline until this 190m-tall sonic screwdriver came on the scene. The revolving restaurant may be gone, but if you're lucky enough to get up the BT Tower, the floor does indeed still revolve.

Elephant & Castle Statue, installed 1965

The area takes its name from the sign of a local pub. A statue from the demolished pub was preserved and moved into a new shopping mall in 1965. We're not quite sure why it's red.

Robin Hood Gardens, Alison and Peter Smithson, 1972

One of the major east London housing estates that rose in the 60s or 70, Robin Hood Gardens has now fell foul to the wrecking ball. In 20-odd years' time, we envisage scores of Londoners retroactively mourning its loss.

Thames Barrier, 1984

London is so close to the North Sea that a combination of high tides and increased river flow can easily cause floods. The massive, rotating steel barriers of the Thames Barrier have been protecting the city since 1984.

KioskKX100, 1985

The state run department for post and telecommunications was privatised in the 1980s and split into the Post Office and British Telecommunications (BT). Part of the new investment was an updated series of minimalist telephone boxes.

The Lloyd's Building, Richard Rogers and Partners, 1986

Many decried this 'guts on the outside' building when it was first unveiled — but even if you can't stand the facade, it's impossible to resist its vertigo-inducing zig-zag of escalators inside, not to mention the historical Lutine Bell.

MI6 Building, Terry Farrell and Partners, 1994

Apparently, during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, the London Philharmonic Orchestra played Monty Norman's James Bond Theme as they passed the building along the Thames. It may not be the prettiest structure, but it's certainly secure. Apart from when it gets blown up in Skyfall.

Millennium Dome, Richard Rogers & Mike Davies, 1999

Something about the Millenium Dome's canopy always suggested it'd be a temporary thing. 20 years on though, The O2 is going great guns, hosting some of the biggest acts in the world. You can even climb onto the roof.

Mercedes-Benz 0530G Bendy Bus Citaro, 2002

These high-capacity articulated buses had three doors to speed up boarding. This earned them the nickname 'free bus', as many didn’t bother to tap their Oyster cards once on board. The buses also proved dangerous to cyclists and were phased out.

30 St Mary Axe, Foster + Partners, 2004

You'll probably know it as The Gherkin — although its original nickname was 'the Erotic Gherkin'. There is indeed something very pleasing about its shape. Its top floor cocktail bar is rather exclusive and expensive, but worth forking out for.

London Eye, Julia Barfield and David Marks, 2000

This structure WAS supposed to be temporary, but everyone loved it so much, and it proved so lucrative, that it's now a mainstay of the South Bank.  

ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, Anish Kapoor & Cecil Balmond, 2014

Adding in a massive flume pretty much saved this much-maligned structure. In time, it'll probably become the Eiffel Tower of east London. For now, it's just the world's most expensive helter-skelter.

The Velodrome, Hopkins Architects, 2011

Another Olympic Park building — although this one's practical credentials were obvious from the outset. Great Britain won eight gold medals here at the 2012 Games.

Modern London by Lukas Novotny, published by White Lion publishing, rrp £14.99

Last Updated 04 October 2018