10 May 2014

London's Growing Up! is a marvellous exhibition

The NLA (New London Architecture) exhibition London's Growing Up has got a lot of media attention recently, and rightly so as it is very good. Anybody interested in London would gain something from seeing it.

To be pedantic, there are several related exhibitions on in the same section of the Building Centre in Central London (just by Goodge Street) all looking at the impact of new buildings across London.

The most dramatic is Pipers Central London Model. Built to a scale of 1:1500 it covers an area from Paddington in the west to The Royal Docks in the east and from Battersea in the south to King's Cross in the north. Major new and proposed buildings with planning permission are highlighted in white.

The model does far more to show what London is like than any map does and was comfortably worth the visit on its own. I spent a lot of time looking at parts of London that I do not know at all well, places like Rotherhithe and Greenwich, trying to understand their topography better.

Of course the most visible aspect of the model was the tall buildings. The picture above shows clearly how almost all of the redevelopment of Canary Wharf is confined to one narrow strip just north of the dock.

New buildings are creeping out to the west but little progress has been made south in to the Isle of Dogs.

I took this picture of Victoria because it is an area that I know quite well having worked there twice in the last few years on a couple of projects. The curved building in the middle of the cluster of new buildings is Cardinal Place where the client's office was.

The area still looked like a building site when I went back there recently for a theatre trip.

The Transforming the Boroughs part of the exhibition gave an overview of that major changes planned across London, covering large schemes rather than individual buildings.

This was very illuminating and I read all of them. Some of it was inspiring too with regeneration schemes taking a holistic view of an area and the needs of the people who live and work there.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the areas due to be improved were in the east, another part of London that I know very little about. From the many good examples on show I have selected Meridian Water in Edmonton, Enfield because it reminded me of many of the things that I liked about Amsterdam.

All the London Boroughs were included but the focus was on the majority in the centre or where much was happening. The entries for Kingston and Richmond were small and picture-less, though Richmond could claim that it had plans for Twickenham Riverside.

Another section of the exhibition has large models of some of the new buildings and this one shows what is happening at Elephant and Castle.

On the wall behind there was a history of towers in London on the left and details of some of the tallest buildings straight ahead. More to read, more to learn from, more to enjoy.

The Projects Showcase was another interesting and long read. The photo above shows about half of the projects that were on display.

The projects that were showcased were chosen for their interest and not necessarily their height.

I've chosen to highlight these two scheme in Aldgate because I worked there in 2001/02 and so know the area well, or at least I knew it well as it was then.

I worked in the large NatWest computer centre at Goodman's Field. Then it was a low squat brick building and now it is a fairly nondescript collection of residential blocks. I think that in the not too distant future we'll look back at the many Berkley Homes developments across London and consider them at best a missed opportunity and, in many case, a blight.

Other projects were more imaginative and I had a good time learning about them all.

I have tried to give a flavour of the size and variety of the displays in the exhibition but it is only a flavour and the only way to do the exhibition justice is to go and see it again. I only allowed one hour for my visit and that was not quite enough to read everything and so I plan to go back soon.

And I'll close by repeating a comment that I made at the start, anybody interested in London would gain something from seeing this marvellous exhibition.

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