London Day 1: A City of Layers

Off the plane and off we went on our first day in London! A coach ride from Heathrow took us to Southwark Cathedral where we met our walking tour guide Angus Lockyer, Lecturer in the History of Japan, University of London.


View of the medieval Southwark Cathedral and the Shard, completed in 2012

From Southwark we crossed the River Thames over London Bridge into the City of London.


From London Bridge, we had a great view of the Thames and Tower Bridge

We were struck by medieval and Tudor architecture integrated among a modern cityscape. Buildings separated by centuries of design coalesce in the same physical space, often in dialogue with one another.


The Gherkin, built in 2004, towers over St. Helen’s Bishopsgate church

London did not emerge according to a city plan, but was built and rebuilt as the city grew and changed. From its Roman origins to present, we saw a constellation of different building styles and moments in the city’s history.


A monument to the Great Fire of London, built between 1671 and 1677

We saw examples of how design and architecture can speak to the political climate of an era, and how London’s buildings contributed to the spread of ideas.


The group gathers behind the brick structure on the right, now the Jamaica Wine House, which opened in 1652 as the first coffee house in London. Coffee houses were places to exchange ideas and conduct business

At our final stop for the day, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the juxtaposition of new and old transitioned to an interior setting in works such as Dale Chihuly’s V&A Rotunda Chandelier, a 2001 creation that hangs in the museum’s 1855 grand entrance hall.


Dale Chihuly, V&A Rotunda Chandelier, 2001, Grand Entrance Hall of the Victoria and Albert Museum

What does a city’s design say about the broader culture out of which it comes or the individual architects and craftsman who played a part in forming it? Over the course of the first day, the group began to orient ourselves to the city and think about the complex layers of people and their built environment that form the cityscape of London. After such an exciting first day, we can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip brings!

By Sarah Berndt, WPAMC Class of 2017

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