The juxtaposition was unintended when I shot these images, but having written about the problems of a scheme to transform the Liverpool skyline with shiny skyscrapers, I have a set of images that I captured outside Liverpool Street Station in London… of shiny skyscrapers.
There was one in particular that I came to shoot; the others just happened to be in the vicinity, and it would have been rude not to include them.
Leading the way for this brave new world of glass and steel was the Lloyds Building. Designed by Lord Rogers, it took inspiration from France’s Pompidou Centre by placing utilities and services on the outside of the building, but upped the ante by doing it with a greater degree of style and panache. This is more than a glass box; it is a structure with texture; curves and spirals to contrast with hard edges, and at its heart, an 18th century committee room, designed by Robert Adam and brought here from the building’s predecessor piece by painstaking piece. What’s more the structure even has a role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy where it is now on the planet Xandar!
Soon they’ll be joined by The Scalpel, (surely the market in sharp and pointy has already been cornered by The Shard?) and of course we’re in the same vicinity as The Cheesegrater, and The Walkie-Talkie! (Does it take as many consultants to name these buildings as to draw up the blueprints?).
What’s interesting is that there’s nothing so new about this. The Victorians were at it with glass and steel a century earlier than Richard Rogers, as can be seen from the roof of Liverpool Street Station, and right next to Lloyds in Leadenhall Market, a space so enchanting that they ran the 2012 Olympic marathon through it!
But enough digression. When I first came to this part of London a dozen years or so ago the race for the skies was not going at such a pace, but there was one rather curious shape making it’s presence felt. Similar in some ways to Barcelona’s Torre Agbar, but more graceful and far less sexual. Here the glass has more purpose, the reflections created on these gentle curves producing something far more abstract and interesting than the flat planes of those that surround it. 30 St Mary Axe is the work of another architectural Lord; Norman Foster. Both it’s silhouette, and the swirling patterns that culminate at its apex give it a far more organic and friendly aspect than the rigid forms nearby, and that organic nature continues in this structure’s nickname. Welcome to The Gherkin.