24 June 2009

Back in London!

So we started with all the usual tourist spots

Here's a few photos:
the tower bridge (invariably in the minds of tourists who arrive here this is famous London bridge that fell down!)
the london eye
the river Thames as seen from the eye
the British Museum
my favorite section in here is the Persian empire - it's amazing the amount of stuff they bought here from all around the world!
My favourite museum in London is the Natural History Museum.. It's an awesome building with a great collection!
View from Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath
The forecourt of architect Denys Lasdun's masterpiece - the National Theatre - at the Southbank
And Richard Seifert's exquisite - Centre Point on Oxford Street

The rest of this posting will focus on a few of projects that I've long wanted to see but never managed to get to while I lived here.

First is a small and extremely bizarre building in Woking (techinically this is beyond the limits of London but it's close) - the Woking Mosque, officially called the Shah Jahan Mosque. This was the first purpose built mosque in UK, besides the obvious surprise of finding a piece of exotic architecture in a typical English suburban setting
there is a fascinating story to it's conception - it was built by orientalist Dr. Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, a Christian who served in the British army in India. On his return he decided to built a Mosque and a Hindu temple in memory of his days in India and constructed this building in 1889 with money he had collected from some Muslim donors. Sadly he never managed to get enough funds for the temple.

Next is a housing estate that I've long wanted to see - designed by Berthold Lubetkin. And actually it was by pure luck that I happened to pass by this project
the Sivill House is a 76-flat council housing block on Columbia Road in Bethnal Green - on my way to see Columbia Road Flower Market with some friends.
The next set of buildings are all inside the fabulous Kew Gardens - the Royal Botanical Gardens as it is officially known is undoubtedly the world best botanical garden not only for its extensive collection of plants but also because its great collection of architecture. And since 2003 UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.

The most impressive building in the entire garden is the Palm House.
Built in 1844-48 by Richard Turner to Decimus Burton's designs,
it is Kew's most recognisable building,
having gained iconic status as the world's most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.

Next to the Palm House is the Princess of Wales Conservatory
(opened by Diana in 1987)
it houses 10 climate zones.

And right behind that is latest plant house in the garden - the Davies Alpine House designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.
The arched shape of this greenhouse is both a new landmark and a welcoming gesture towards visitors to Kew.
In the tradition of the innovative, high-tech glasshouses of Kew, this design provides a balanced, energy-efficient growing climate for Kew's collection of Alpine plants.

A good half an hour walk from the Alpine House is the award-winning Sackler Crossing, by British architect John Pawson.
This has to one of the most beautiful bridges ever built!
Made of granite and bronze it opened in May 2006.
The Sackler Crossing beautifully combines with the tranquil rhythm of the gently rounded contours of the land, the smooth water surface and the powerful verticals of the trees - it's really great!

And lastly is the latest addition to Kew's architecture collection - the Xstrata Treetop Walkway.
It's 18 metres high and allows visitors to stroll through the canopy of the Capability Brown’s woodland in Kew’s deciduous arboretum.
It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the architects of the London Eye.
At 200 metres long the Walkway provides an opportunity to experience trees and wildlife at height, as well as offering a bird’s eye view of Kew’s 300 acre site and the London skyline beyond.

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