Uncovering the "Erotic Gherkin" & London's Architectural Gems

Uncovering the "Erotic Gherkin" & London's Architectural Gems

The annual Open House London Weekend has come and gone, and by the looks of the queues formed outside of architectural gems all across London, this 20-year-old free event has proven to be more popular than ever. 

Here's a look at some of the buildings -- out of the nearly 800 open to the public -- that I managed to visit over the weekend. Time well spent!

(Aurelien Guichard/ThePinnacle)

30 St Mary Axe, the bullet-shaped skyscraper in the City of London once nicknamed the "erotic gherkin", is now affectionally known to most simply as "The Gherkin".

The tower was the first tall structure allowed to be built in the financial district since the 1970s.  It opened in 2004 and had since firmly taken root as one of London's most popular landmarks.

But the 41-story steel and glass pickle may soon be dwarfed by another quirky building just 300 meters down the road. The Pinnacle, which looks like a fruit roll-up to me and a funfair tower ride to others, will have 64 floors when it's finished. The competion date is anyone's guess, however, since the project has been halted until at least the beginning of 2013 due to pre-let problems.

- The Gherkin has 24,000 sq m of external glass, equivalent to 5 football pitches

- The lounge bar and restaurant at the top is the highest in London

- There's only one piece of curved glass in 30 St. Mary Axe - the lens at the top oft the building

Lloyd's of London 1 Lime Street, London EC3M 7HA

One Lime Street is another iconic building in the City (just across the street from The Gherkin) and an example of British High-Tech architecture. A virtual tour is available online to showcase its stunning interiors.

Portcullis House City of Westminster, London SW1A

This modern structure with a connecting tunnel to the Palace of Westminster provides offices for Members of Parliament to supplement the lack of space in the more famous and historic building.

Portcullis House boasts 14 tall, bronze chimneys that echo the pinnacles at the Palace of Westminster and serve as terminals of a vertical duct system. The building was designed in conjunction with the seven storey high underground chamber of the Westminster tube station.

One of the most striking features is the building's inner courtyard, covered by a glass roof supported on six columns "arranged like the spots on a domino." 

Portcullis House seen from Westminster Hall.

The Banqueting House in Whitehall.

The Banqueting House Whitehall, London SW1A 2ER

This Grade I-listed building is the only surviving part of Whitehall Palace, which was destroyed by fire in 1698. Its main hall boasts magnificent ceiling paintings by the Flemish painter Peter Rubens.

The Banqueting House was used to provide entertainment for Charles I, whom ironically was executed in front of the same building that brought him much merriment. 

Statue of Joshua Reynolds, the first President of RA (Eileen Hsieh)

Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD

This independent, privately funded art institution was established in 1768 by George III to promote the "creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate."

The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is based in Burlington House, one of the earliest large private residences built in Piccadilly from the 17th century onwards and also home to five learned societies: Society of Antiquaries, Linnean Society, Geological Society, Royal Astronomical Society, and Royal Society of Chemistry -- a layout aimed to encourage frequent interaction amongst artists and scientists.

Channel 4 headquarters has plenty of quirky features (Eileen Hsieh) 

Channel 4 Television 124 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2TX

The headquarters of "the other" public service broadcaster in Britain is housed in a striking steel, glass and concrete building featuring external lifts and a giagantic, 50-foot-high metal "4" outside.

The "Big 4" structure regularly gets decorated by a variety of artists to reflect the Channel's on-air identity. At the moment it sports an installation that depicts an athlete in wheelchair, as Channel 4 was the official broadcaster for the 2012 London Paralympics. 

Jewel Tower in medieval times and the present day

Jewel Tower Abingdon Street, City of Westminster, SW1P 3JX

This 3-story tower, constructed in the 14th century to house Edward III’s treasures, is one of the only two surviving sections of the medieval royal Palace of Westminster.

The Jewel Tower is now managed by English Heritage and contains an exhibition exhibition about the history of Parliament.

St Martin-in-the-Fields in Westminster.

St Martin-in-the-Fields Trafalgar Square London WC2N 4JJ

The staff at this landmark church next to Trafalgar Square offered a bellringing tour during the Open House weekend, where visitors could try their hands at ringing one of the twelve bells in the St Martin-in-the-Fields's nearly 300 years old tower.

Ham House & Garden Ham Street, Ham, Surrey TW10 7RS

This splendid 17th century house along the River Thames near Richmond boasts extravagant interiors and several manicured gardens. You can read more about the place here

Ham House's symmetrical facade
Cherry Garden

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