Check out these shelved plans for Phase Two of the London Bridge City development. The Powers-That-Were sought THREE different schemes in different styles.
Ultimately unsuccessful but undeniably ambitious, John Simpson and Partners were up first. They dreamt up a sort of Venice-on-the-Thames, complete with piazzas, cloisters and a sort of belltower-type thing. As you can see, I don't know my architectural terms, but I do know OTT elegance when I see it and this has bucketloads.
Admittedly, plonked down in the middle of central London it might have felt a bit like a pre-fab "Fancy Italy!" section from the Epcot Centre, but then people probably would say the same thing about the Covent Garden piazza.
It's a bit Duloc (right) and inauthentic, but it looks OK and would have been sympathetic to Hay's Galleria.
The second offering is bland filler, so let's not talk about that.
The third, from Philip Johnson, was meant to act as a counterpoint to the Palace of Westminster upstream, but looks absolutely massive and stupid and like it was drawn by a Premiership footballer. Opposite the Tower of London and next to Tower Bridge, it would have just looked like a crude, oversized, tacky copycat. So I'm glad that that didn't win.
In the end, Simpson's Anglo-Neo-Venetian offering won, but the commercial developers apparently wanted to build their own conventional buildings and just stick his facades on, so Simpson took his blueprints and hardhat (I imagine he looked like Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby) and stomped off home.
And that is how we ended up with City Hall which, all things considered, is pretty cool.
It opened in 2002 and was designed by Norman Foster. It doesn't fit with the Tower of London but the mix-and-match, modern/old thing is very London, and the design is the best of the bunch. Well done, Norman.
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