ARCLIB Spring Visit 2016 London
Tuesday 26th April
On a sunny spring morning we began our jam packed day at the UCL Bartlett Built Environment library. We were met by Suzanne Tonkin and Caroline Fletcher who introduced us to the new Bartlett library which moved from Wates House to 14 Upper Woburn Place in August 2014
The Bartlett library is one of the most comprehensive to be found anywhere on architecture, planning, building and construction management. Its open shelves hold around 40,000 monograph volumes, a technical information section and current editions of more than 250 magazines and journals, as well as large back runs. There are 55 spaces in the library’s reading room. They also hold the CABE archive. Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) a leading body for professionals specialising in the design, construction, evaluation and maintenance of buildings. CABE was the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space from 1999 to 2011.
Just as the weather began to change from sun to snow we visited the Sky garden in Fenchurch Street, at the top of the commercial skyscraper named the ‘Walkie talkie’ designed by the architect Rafael Viñoly. The building was the subject of much press comment in 2013 as the sun light reflected by the concave design began melting parked cars below.
The Sky garden which opened in 2015 allows free public access and is the capital’s highest public garden on the 35th floor of the building. The planting has been designed by the landscape architects Gillespies and it features a series of themed planted terraces and includes tree ferns and fig trees.
We were then met by Phillip Wigan a London blue badge guide for a whistle stop tour of city skyscrapers which included the Heron Tower, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and the site for the latest skyscraper – the ‘Can of Ham’ situated close to the Gherkin. Our guide also informed us of the notion of ‘public realm’ whereby an area of public space must be created either within or around the planned building.
Our guided tour ended at the Shard designed by the architect Renzo Piano which opened in 2013. At a height of 309m it has 95 floors 72 of which are habitable. The viewing gallery and observation deck are on the 72nd floor, the other floors include a hotel, restaurants, apartments, a hospital and offices. The building features 11,000 panes of glass and it is possible to see for at least 40 miles as far as the South Downs on a good day.
Our day ended with a boat trip down the Thames towards the Albert Bridge to visit the offices and library of Norman Foster and Partners. We were welcomed out of the rain and freezing temperatures with drinks and snacks by Lara the librarian and then taken on a tour of the offices and library collections. Many thanks go to the committee and especially to Carla for organising such an informative and fascinating tour of modern London architecture.
Article and skyline photography by Sherene King, Middlesex University
Additional photos of the visit to the library of Norman Foster + Partners by Tessa Barnes, London, Foster + Partners