Brave, unconventional, decadent, complex, powerful...buildings can wear all kinds of attire and with their indisputable presence they tell the many stories of a city. Get ready to gaze up to the sky, because this is a Mini-Guide to some of the most notable architecture south of the river Thames.
The south side of the Thames is an area full of entertainment and things to do; so no matter what you are into, there's a good chance you'll find something to make you happy here. It goes without saying that it gets particularly busy here as it's a much loved destination for both tourists hopping from one attraction to the other and Londoners taking a stroll or on a theatre night.
Nevertheless, the south side of the river is home to some of the most interesting buildings in London. From historical power stations turned museums to masterpieces of some of today's most acclaimed architects, Grumgo's Mini-Guide will be inspiring for both industry experts and simple appreciators. Look up and don't forget to bring your camera! (Psst, exploring a new city is about to get a lot smarter with Grumgo, app coming this summer to the Google Play and App Store; stay tuned and sign up now)
Please note that the list we've put together include buildings that are open to the public either for free or with a fee and others that are not accessible by the public. During Open House London hundreds of public and private buildings are opened to the public for free.
Starting from the West, the first stop is Battersea Power Station; it's a little out o the way, but totally worth it. Designed by Dr. Leonard Pearce, Henry Newmarch Allott, T.P. O’Sullivan, Theo J. Halliday, and once a coal-fired power station, this popular large brick building (featured in the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album) dates back to the 1930s and is soon to become a luxury residential complex by Rafael Vinoly.
188 Kirtling St, SW8 5BN
In Vauxhall and still away from the crowd, we find the MI6 building. Home to the British Secret Intelligence Services since 1994, this curious looking postmodern building designed by Terry Farrell bears the nicknames of “Legoland” and “Babylon-on-Thames”; why? Just check it out…
85 Albert Embankment, SE1 7TP
The first real landmark we encounter is the London Eye, designed by Frank Anatole, Nic Bailey, Julia Barfield, Steve Chilton, M. Cook. Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, it’s 130 m tall with a diameter of 120 m. The rim of the Eye is supported by tensioned steel cables and resembles a huge spoked bicycle wheel. Each capsule can carry 25 people and takes about 30 minutes to complete a full revolution. 30 minutes of pure pleasure for the eye!
Lambeth, SE1 7PB
A short walk from the London Eye is Hayward Gallery (Higgs and Hill, Haworth Tompkins), unmissable for Brutalist lovers. This is one of the few examples left from the 1960s. It hosts an art gallery within the Southbank Centre.
South Bank Centre
Albert Moore's OXO Tower is impossible not to notice. First of all, it has a tower facing the river among shorter buildings; then the tower features a huge sign that says, well, OXO! The OXO Tower has been it all: first, power station for the Royal Mail in the late 19th century, then cold store for oxo beef stock cubes, then abandoned derelict. In the 1990s the OXO Tower came back to life and was turned into a mixed-use building with housing, shops and the famous OXO Tower restaurant.
02 Barge House St, SE1 9GY
"Tate Modern" (CC BY 2.0) by Aurelien Guichard
This is one of my favourite places in London: the Tate Modern, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. We can say with no doubt that it's now an iconic building, linked to St. Paul’s Cathedral by the as much iconic Millennium bridge. Once the Bankside Power Station, it opened to the public in 2000 as a modern art gallery with acclaimed artists’ work on show and panoramic river views. The structure is divided into three main areas: the impressive turbine hall in the centre, the boiler house to the north and the newly added switch house.
Bankside, SE1 9TG
Hopefully after all this walking you are now feeling peckish (if you are not, I bet you will soon...) Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London and possibly the most impressive. A foodie’s mecca, Borough Market was designed in 1851 by Sir Robert Smirke when London was hosting the first Great Exhibition (of the Works of Industry of all Nations) while the beautiful Art Deco entrance was added in 1932.
8 Southwark St, SE1 1TL
A short detour and we are at Guy's Hospital to admire the Boiler Suit, designed by Heatherwick Studio. Commissioned by the NHS, this is a unique, undulating façade of woven steel panels designed to encase the hospital's boiler house.
Great Maze Pond, SE1 1YZ
People claim you wither love it or hate it. I think if your jaw doesn't drop now, I don't know when it will... The Shard is one of the latest additions to the city, yet it's already become the symbol of London. And no wonder! The Shard Tower, designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, became the tallest skyscraper in Europe with its 87 storeys when it opened in 2013. The building features 11,000 panes of glass, intended to reflect sunlight and the sky above, so that the appearance of the building will change according to the weather and seasons.
32 London Bridge St, SE1 9SG
Walking towards Tower Bridge we encounter some of the most exciting buildings in London, designed by no one less than Norman Foster + Partners. PwC Headquarters is the largest building within the More London masterplan and is a sustainable architecture with no obvious front or back.
7 More London Riverside, SE1 2RT
But the real gem is London City Hall; a distinctive glass globe with no front or back and 10 floors. Its shape achieves optimum energy performance by maximising shading and minimising the surface area exposed to direct sunlight. The internal staircase is impressive!
The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA
Alessia is co-founder and CEO here at Grumgo.
She is a travel fanatic, expert food taster and collector of every edition of The Little Prince.