Of all the cities in the world, that I have seen, I think some of the most beautiful variance in architecture exists in London. It has been a melting pot for centuries. Ideas, shapes, cultures, and tones from history shade its buildings. Throughout the city, there is such a variety of structure, that it really is a feast for the eyes. My friend, Jamie gave me an 8+ mile walking tour of the city. I finallly saw the city from the perspective that I have only read about, and never have time to take!
Jamie was kind enough to entertain my deisre to wander through London without much of a plan. I got to see everything from Shakespear’s favourite pub, to The Gherkin, and all while mostly avoiding tourists. All of that, combined with the lack of clouds, and spectacular weather, made for a great afternoon.
One of the things that you learn when you travel, especially nowadays, is that people are pretty much the same everywhere you go. The internet has been the great equalizer, so the daily wear of most western countries is pretty much the same, with only subtle variations from place to place. There used to be marked differences, twenty years ago when I first travelled internationally, but those differences are much more subtle now. Even in the area of shopping and cafes, across from my current hotel in Paris, you see a Starbucks, Levis store, and a Five Guys. The reach of American culture is pervasive everywhere.
One place that you still see a lot of differences in Europe, is the buildings. The age of these cities is sometimes more than 1,000 years older than the United States. As you can see in some of the photos, there are new and old buildings, modern and historic windows even, in the same structure. The financial district of London is that mix writ large. The ultra-modern financial buildings rise from streets and markets of old pubs and restaurants, cobble stones, and abut structures over one hundred years old.
Modern architecture, though a bit thoughtless and bland at times, does have a different beauty to it. Form is exposed, lines followed, and the adornment that used to cover structures in past centuries, has been replaced by engineering feats, which only modern construction techniques and materials make possible. This is one area where non-US cities excel. The buildings of London are all different shapes, varied planes, all making a statement. It seems that the engineers and designers here take more chances in their designs, and it pays off in a richness, that most areas in the US strive for, and never actually have the daring to complete. Though there is more and more interesting architecture in the United States, I just haven’t seen quite as much variety yet. Maybe it is the European love of design and art, or possibly it is just more noticeable, because it is a different world when you travel. Either way, the differences were stunning.
If you are ever in London, take some time and see some tourist sites, the palace, and some churches. But, make sure that you reserve and afternoon to take a walk between the different neighborhoods in the city. It won’t take long, and will be a very enriching experience. You learn so much when you actually experience people and culture, and so much less if surrounded by your fellow tourists. Thanks, Jamie, for a great adventure! Cheers!