These Are The London Buildings You Most Want To Demolish

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 10 October 2023

These Are The London Buildings You Most Want To Demolish

In 1987, the Illustrated London News ran a bullish article, in which eminent Londoners of the time swung fantasy bulldozers at the buildings that most grated on them. Fast forward over three and a half decades, and we asked Londonist readers the same question. Here's what you said (and WOW, you lot have an appetite for destruction).

Tacky towers

The Walkie-Talkie with a gloriusly cloudy sky behind it
A lot of you want this thing gone. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

Unabashedly tall buildings were brought down to size; The Shard is a wildly popular proposal for demolition, as is its corpulent cousin the Walkie-Talkie (and we'll assume "The dreadful building on Fenchurch Street!" is alluding to Rafael Viñoly's stumpy 'scraper too.) Although, come on people — think of the views we'd lose from these two behemoths! Richard Seifert's contentious 1960s Centre Point is in the mix (and the views from up here now are privatised), as is the pregnant-looking One Blackfriars and 22 Bishopsgate ("So rubbish Londoners have not even given it a nickname" quips one of you about the latter.) At this juncture, can we just say how wonderful is to see your hatred span so many architectural eras and styles. Not all the lofty buildings you want obliterated are as famous; one of you wants to reduce the Archway Tower to rubble, and anyone's who's seen this unlovable blight on the Highgate skyscape might be inclined to agree.

Political piffle

Big Ben illuminated at night, with a shaft of light shooting past it
Not sure that demolishing this is going to solve our political probs, but you da boss. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

So. The Houses of Parliament is the most popular motion for demolition of any other building (closely followed by the Walkie-Talkie and The Shard). But surely it's the inhabitants of Charles Barry's neo-gothic confection you take issue with, not the hallowed halls themselves? This seems to be affirmed with a sprinkling of votes for 10 Downing Street — a handsome, and entirely inoffensive townhouse, which as we all know, has a spiffing space out the back for garden parties. Buckingham Palace, 55 Tufton Street, 4 Matthew Parker Street (Tory HQ) and City Hall are other erections you pulverized, and which we fancy might be for reasons other than architectural. (City Hall, of course is no longer used by the GLA anyway.) In a different slant on partisan demolition, one of you calls for the Emirates Stadium to be torn down, and with immediate rebuttal, another says it's time Spurs's (brand new) stadium was pulled down. Touché.

Brutalist bunions

The corner of a many-windowed brutalist looking building
102 Petty France is also the Ministry of Justice. Image: poppet with a camera via creative commons

We weren't entirely sure if some of you put 102 Petty France to the sword because it's the Ministry of Justice, or simply because it's uggers. But anyway, the architectural Marmite that is brutalism racks up a fair flurry of hate mail: the Barbican, Trellick Tower and Baynard House all receive votes. (We urge you to read How To Eat, Sleep And Breathe Brutalism In London before you go taking to the Cromwell Tower with a pneumatic drill, though.) Another of you squinnies about "The National Theatre, a pile of concrete boxes,", which brings us to our next category...

Cultural cackbastards

The O2 with some of its canvas torn off
Some of you want to finish what Eunice started. Image: Paige Kahn/Londonist

We really had to question some of the cultural institutions that you would happily see reduced to piles of rubble,  twisted steel and — in one case — shredded canvas. The Southbank Centre (the whole thing?!) is on to-destroy list, as is the British Library (the redbrick St Pancras building celebrates 25 years in 2023, and in our opinion is as dreamy outside as in). "The Tate Modern. Horrible building," grumbles one of you (honestly?!), while another says, almost with an air of immediate regret: "The London Eye. Sorry, it's just out of place, and kitsch as hell." (Again, only one of you out of thousands of respondees wants it gone.) Harrods gets a shout-out, not because it's a naff building, but because: "I'm so confused and get lost", and someone wants to finish off the job that Storm Eunice started on The O2. M&M's World gets a show of hands too... that counts as a cultural institution, right? Oh, and *those* American candy stores left a bitter taste in the mouth for a few of you, too.

Crappy City of London

The pink and sandstone coloured No. 1 Poultry building, with a Bank station sign in the foreground
Both Bank station and No. 1 Poultry feature on your architectural kill list. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

Aside from the tall towers already mentioned above, a few other City buildings are asking for trouble according to you — namely the Lloyd's Building ("It was the first "modern" monstrosity in London, and now there's no stopping them."), No 1 Poultry (clearly not fans of Bagpuss then) and the Gherkin (to which we say, were you pickled when you suggested this?!).

Rubbish residential

Four residential towers, the one on the far left with huge fans on the roof
Strata (on the far left) was mentioned a handful of times. Image: Londonist

As a jungle of residential high-rises sprout like flowers/weeds/high-rises on the London horizon, some of you are taking particular exception. One Hyde Park — the superposh flats being flogged by Harrods Estates — should be pulled down, cries one of you — while more of you are adamant that the mass of glass carbuncles surrounding the beautiful Battersea Power Station must go. "That stupid tower in Elephant with the greenwash wind turbine that doesn't even work," says someone. You're referring to Strata we think, and that was not the only motion for annihilation that we received for that one. Manhattan Loft Gardens in Stratford is not in your good books either — not for ruining Stratford's skyline, but that of St Paul's as seen from Richmond.

Inept infrastructure

The concourse at Euston
It's official(ly) unsurprising - Euston is your least favourite station. Image: Londonist

"Do bridges count?" asks one of you, continuing: "The Westway for the pollution it takes through residential areas." (Sadiq, that you?). Bank station is a lone suggestion (the same person also wants to bulldoze Ally Pally, which is just... what? No! You're disqualified mate). "Charing Cross Station. It looks like something Barbara Cartland would wear," mewls someone else. Euston station, however, is the unsurprising awardee of the most votes for a good old razing-to-the-ground in this particular category (which some say would be sweet justice, given how this giant bath of a thing rudely shoulder-barged the Victorian Euston station out of existence back in the 60s). There's also a preemptive shout for the 'demolition' of the not-yet-built Liverpool Street station development.

Horrendous hotels

An ugly brutalist fortress of a building - taken from up high
The Guoman has got to guo, says you. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

While some of your hotel suggestions seem very specific for a city filled with fugly buildings (we're looking at you Shoreditch Travelodge), others make more sense. It's understandable that Park Tower in Knightsbridge gets called out as an eyesore, although bet you wouldn't be complaining if you were staying in one of its swish rooms. Shoreditch's angular Montcalm East gets a mention: "Someone designed it to completely mess with our sense of perspective...I dunno...for a laugh maybe?" Think you might be right, actually, as the hotel admits on its own site: "As light hits it, the shimmering shark-grey façade tricks the eyes — which is apt, given that Moorfields Eye Hospital is our neighbour." (WTF?). Taking the biscuit, and crumbling it all over someone's nice new sofa, though is the maladroit Guoman Hotels lump — which a number of you want sent to architectural hell, particularly as it inelegantly rubs shoulders with Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. I mean.

Horrible hospitals

A tall building in the foreground with the Shard looming behind it
Another two-for-one - Guy's Hospital in the foreground, and The Shard behind it. Image: Londonist

At a time when the Tory party is building 40 new hospitals a week (or something like that), Londonist readers are calling for a couple to be knocked down — namely the Royal Free and Guy's. Given the current state of the NHS, we'll gloss over that suggestion.

The whole darned lot

The new American Embassy - a glassy cube with sail-influeced shapes on one side
"The whole monstrosity that is Nine Elms" needs to go according to one of you. Image: Londonist

It's a case of broad strokes from some of you, who suggest wiping clean entire districts and starting over. "The whole monstrosity that is Nine Elms" and "The whole of Earls Court" are two suggestions, as well as Brent Cross and "Pretty much anything in Victoria Street" (that's the one opposite Victoria station, with things like this 'bright red preening cockerel' on it, and we don't entirely disagree with you on that one).

Worst of the rest

A huge, glassy, odd-shaped Tesco
Every little helps, but this is A LOT. Image: 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia via creative commons

Woolwich Tesco is officially risible, having scooped the Carbuncle Cup in 2004. Every little helps, but this lopsided conservatory design is A LOT. Only gets one vote here though. Strata aside, Elephant and Castle gets a couple of mentions: "The metal cube in the middle of Elephant and Castle" says one of you (not sure how clever it would be to blow up a substation). "Was going to say the Elephant and Castle shopping centre but thankfully that's already done," muses another. (And to that we say, never speak ill of the dead.) In the same geographical ballpark (but worlds apart architecturally) comes this one: "Walworth Town Hall. It was very dilapidated last time I was in London (4 years ago). The perfect metaphor for the marriage I had performed there. The marriage is no longer!" A couple of you also wise-crack: "The building next door, so I'd get some sun (it’s rare in London already) on my roof terrace," and "Next door but one, can't stand that bloke." Maybe we should have filed these under the political section.

And finally...

Just one of you didn't want to lay a finger on anything: "None of them, the beauty of London is the old and the new blended together." What a lovely thought. Now, grab your dynamite, we're going to blow up Woolwich Tesco.