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Architectural Tourism Handbook by Andis Sīlis

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Connoisseur's Guide · Europe · united kingdom · London · Architectural Tourism Handbook by Andis Sīlis


Author: Andis Sīlis1 COMMENT


One of the reasons why I agreed to write for this portal is my friends who, travelling to London, always ask me - what to see? There is a profusion of architecture in this mega city, and it is easy to make a list up to one's liking of objects to see. London city bus tours offer quite a comprehensive route, giving a good overall impression, as well.
Yet, regardless of an extensive choice, there is a building deserving a special attention. Its architectural qualities, however, require a trained eye to be noticed, and even a younger generation architects may remain unaware of them. Namely the new extension of the National Gallery or Sainsbury Wing, designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, completed in 1991. Being an apologist of postmodern architecture in his time, Venturi thoroughly studied stumbling blocks of contemporary architecture. Although his other projects don't seem particularly fascinating to me, this one deserves to be mentioned among the most successful examples of a contemporary interpretation of classic architectural language within the last quarter of 20s century.

Foto: LondonFoto: London

It blends into the context so perfectly that, looking from Trafalgar Square towards the National Gallery, a presence of the contemporary architecture in the left wing of its otherwise monumental, neoclassical façade, designed by William Wilkins in 1833, may even stay unnoticed. Yet it becomes instantly evident if you pay more attention to a peculiar form of volume, openings and decoration.

Foto: LondonFoto: London

That is not all yet. A rare phenomenon in architecture - a special reward for the most observant ones, waits at the end of an inner staircase - an artificial perspective. Stand with your back to the stairs and take a glance to the right - at the anfilade of the National Gallery's historical building. Then to the left - towards a perspective of the new Sainsbury Wing, through five door openings - different in decorated and cheating your spatial perception.

Foto: London

If the world-famous architect, sir Norman Foster or his closest confrere Richard Rogers would have applied for the above mentioned project and, heaven forbid, won a design competition (see the photo), it would be a disaster for one of the central squares of London.

Foto: LondonFoto: London

Fortunately enough, Rogers designed Lloyd's building, with its technology-revealing architecture causing stormy discussions in the length of several years, and even Prince Charles's attempts to veto contemporary architecture as such. Though, these disputes shook up Englishmen's rather stagnant comprehension of architecture, and the average Londoner now is reputed to be one of the best informed among Europeans and able to produce objective considerations in this complicated sphere, requiring at least preliminary knowledge.

Foto: LondonFoto: LondonFoto: LondonFoto: London

A story of the Foster's major professional success - "The Gherkin" or SWISS RE HQ, is entirely different. The fascinating high-tech side by side with 19th century church in the very heart of the City, bursting with profusion and conservatism, offers an excellent experience. Everyone must have seen it on pictures and it is visible from almost any part of the capital, yet, do not spare your time for having a closer look (Lloyd's and Swiss Re are within short walking distance one from another). Looking up at the Foster's creation from the nearby narrow street arouses almost erotic emotional delight. Its shape, so archetypical and magical, gives another opportunity of musing over the ever-present phallic symbol in architecture, ever since humanoids engaged in building. Hansa Bank central building in Riga is another attempt of the same type, although, I never stop wondering why others managed to come up with so much more feeling.

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Visited: Hounslow,London

Kaut kaa gadiijaas lasiit Tokijas komentaaru, peec tam,kad biju tur viesojusies... tagad Londonas pieziimes... Sakriit domaassana! Liidziigas sajuutas! Taccu priekss rakstossa arhitekta par maz! Andi Siili jaadodas,,dzillaak mezzaa"!!!

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