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Being a city with an incredibly extensive history, the old and the new coincide, creating a visual timeline. London does not only extend to the area surrounding the Big Ben or the London eye; its boroughs and district span a large distance, each one with its own individual characteristics.
Here is a guide to mapping out the different architecture that can be found in various areas of the city.
Known for its streets lined with pristine white townhouses, South Kensington is a long-standing coveted residential area for London’s most affluent. Interestingly enough, the area, until the mid-19th century, was a prominent agricultural area used to supply London with fresh food. Now, it has become a home for many French expatriates, as the Consulate, L’Institut Français and the French school Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle are all located in the area.
In a sense, South Kensington is the answer to Paris’ beautiful townhouses, which are also remarkable in their beauty and placements along the street; not to mention a colour palette of white or cream, lending a classically incandescent appeal to the neighbourhood. However, South Kensington, despite its similarities to Paris, is definitely an example of London class and elegance and is heralded as a defining district of the city. The architecture of the vast majority of houses is Victorian, a style originating in England during the reign of Queen Victoria and becoming a covetable style in the world of architecture.
Notable residents: Stella McCartney, JK Rowling and Elton John
Notable buildings: Victoria and Albert Museum
Canary Wharf, a district known for banking and finance, is in stark contrast to many other London areas. Built on a wharf, skyscrapers and hyper-modern buildings tower over beds of water, creating a sort of futuristic Venetian Wall Street aesthetic. In a sense, this area is probably quite similar to what people envisioned when imagining the architecture and landscape of the future to look like; albeit without the hovercars. Built within these tall buildings are modern restaurants, such as Obica, a “mozzarella bar”, placed in a glass passageway to the metro station, which serves bankers winding down after a long day.
Canary Wharf, in contrast to more traditional districts such as Chelsea and Mayfair, is probably the most architecturally modern area of London. Also, not many people know this, but on the Isle of Dogs, which Canary Wharf is situated on, is Mudchute farm; a small, but very pleasant farm with animals to pet, serving as a rural break from its hyper-industrialised surroundings.
Notable residents: Robert DeNiro. Kate Bush
Notable buildings: One Canada Square
Many people can picture the iconic building on Pink Floyd’s Animals album, in which a pig floats in the sky around its chimneys. The building, which resembles a factory, is the Battersea Power Station, since decommissioned but once used to power parts of the city with coal. This Art Deco landmark, built to resemble a cathedral, compliments the rest of the district’s architecture quite well.
Battersea features many brick-based buildings, and being situated near a railway, gives the area a somewhat industrial quality, such as 1930s London. Although not as upmarket as some other areas, Battersea is rising as a covetable residential area. With a beautiful expansive park, Battersea Park, families have flocked to the area, or have chosen to send their young ones to the district’s fine schools, such as Prince George, who now attends Thomas’s Battersea.
Notable residents: Pixie Geldof, Gordon Ramsay, Vivienne Westwood
Notable buildings: Battersea Power Station, United States Embassy
Hackney has become a hub for young artists and creatives; earning it a reputation for being cool. Shoreditch, an area within the borough of Hackney, is a treasure trove of vintage clothing, hip eateries and multiculturalism; especially with the famed Brick Lane, a road with a heavy Bangladeshi influence. Once a working-class area, it has been gentrified in modernity. However, the working-class aesthetic has been kept in the district’s architecture, featuring rough buildings, graffiti and unassuming brick buildings. In fact, this aesthetic is celebrated and revered, a sort of antithesis to the extremely wealthy districts of central London. Hackney, although not as expensive as Mayfair, is becoming a costly place to live; many properties costing upwards of 3 million pounds.
If you can afford this coveted shabby-chic lifestyle, which, recently, has become more chic than shabby, you will be immersed in an area full of music halls, clubs and fashion centres. Most of these buildings will look unassuming, such as Hackney Walk, a luxury designer outlet, with its stores built underneath an old railway. Harrods it is not. However, this influx of luxury with street art is what makes Hackney cool, and a celebrated borough for unexpected architecture.
Notable residents: Idris Elba, Keira Knightley
Notable Buildings: Hackney Empire, Old Spitalfields Market
One of the most expensive, if not the most expensive neighbourhood in London; and the architecture in Mayfair won’t let you forget it. Beautiful, polished and unmistakably luxurious, a Mayfair postcode is definitely a feather in the cap. With a menagerie of luxury hotels, shops (Harrods!) and restaurants, it’s easy to see why the affluent flock to its streets.
Most of the buildings in Mayfair are traditional and classic, beautiful in their London prestige. However, many recent developments have added a touch of modernity in the otherwise classic area, such as luxury penthouses, the Mayfair House, 77 Mayfair and the South Molton Lane Building. One thing that unites the old and the new, however, is the use top-notch architects and materials to create buildings worthy of Mayfair’s high standards.
Notable Residents: Madonna, Sultan Al-Nuami, Qatari ruling family
Notable buildings: Harrods, Claridge’s
A residential district bordering the River Thames, this affluent suburban neighbourhood is a veritable example of beautiful Georgian architecture. Georgian architecture is noted for its beautiful symmetry and classic aesthetic, and the buildings are often made of brick or stone. This architecture persists today, especially in London, and lends Richmond a beautiful demeanour.
Being so close to the Thames, with the ability to buy a detached house, has attracted many to live in the neighbourhood, especially those with families. Peaceful, harmonious and attractive; Richmond is a central oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Notable residents: Mick Jagger, Richard E. Grant, David Attenborough
Notable buildings: Ham House, White Lodge