Iconic London architecture – in reality and in art

London is a fantastic place to be an architect or an artist. Inspirational buildings surround us at every turn, from the historic to the cutting-edge contemporary.


At LGC we love a good challenge. So, we sent twelve members of staff on a mission to a local pub, the Bloomsbury Tavern. They were told not to come back until they had agreed on the five most iconic pieces of architecture in London along with their favourite artistic representations of them.


So, how well did it go? Well, If you've ever seen the Peter Fonda film, Twelve Angry Men, about a tense night spent in a hotel as jury members struggle to reach a decision, then you can imagine how things went!


But now, they've finally returned their verdict and it's time to reveal the jury's decision. All stand in court – here comes the judgement.

Iconic London Architecture #1

The Houses of Parliament

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More correctly called the Palace of Westminster; the Houses of Parliament in Westminster have become a household brand.

Despite being an instantly recognisable building, there is still much that remains obscure about the goings on inside. For instance, did you know that the HoP was one of the first buildings in the UK to ban smoking? Not five years before the rest of us, but more than five decades! Actually, it was banned in the 17th century, and its doorkeepers still discretely carry snuff boxes in case members' nicotine levels hit an all-time low.

The image of Westminster that we settled on was a watercolour by Marian Voicu: we just loved the way that the medium and the subject combine so perfectly to depict a rainy day in London.

London Rain, Marian Voicu (Watercolour)

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Iconic London Architecture #2

The Shard

Piercing the London skyline at a height of 310 metres, architect Renzo Piano's Southwark-based Shard has staked its place in the London cityscape. Its futuristic thrust looms menacingly over the historic frame of London Bridge.


Yet, this is actually a rather sensitive building: it may pack a punch visually but, in eco-friendly terms, it's much gentler. An amazing 95% of the materials used to build the Shard came from recycled sources.

The Shard artwork we've chosen, however, does not show us the marvel of the building itself. Instead it's the panoramic view that the UK's tallest building affords that has caught our artistic eyes.

Mike Hall, View from The Shard (Pencil drawing)

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Iconic London Architecture #3

St Paul's Cathedral

This national monument, quite astoundingly, was the tallest building in London until as recently as 1967. It is perched on Ludgate Hill, almost directly opposite the modernist magnificence of the Tate Modern, which lines the opposite bank of the Thames.

This late-17th century Baroque beauty was designed by Sir Christopher Wren as part of the rebuilding programme that followed the Great Fire of London.

We selected an atmospheric oil painting from the 1920s to depict St. Paul's. You can almost touch the perfectly recreated mist that surrounds the street scene. Despite being enshrouded, the cathedral makes its iconic presence clearly felt – acting a symbol for London as well as an impressive landmark.

Norman Garstin, Wren's Monument, 1921 (Oil on canvas)

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Iconic London Architecture #4

Buckingham Palace

We chose another traditional and stately building for our fourth piece of London architecture. Even more so than St Paul's, Buckingham Palace is a national symbol. It's most famous rendition in art in recent years has, undoubtedly, been the commissioned 'portrait' by Stephen Whatley, whose Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace carries an Expressionist exuberance that overshadows the picture's explicit subject (the guards) and somewhat flies in the face of the understated elegance of the actual building.



Since 1992, Whatley's paintings have honoured the anniversaries of architectural landmarks in London. Other architectural icons he has painted include Bush House, Broadcasting House, BBC Television Centre, the Tate Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and Tower Bridge.

For our chosen artwork, though, we have gone for something less official and rather more intimate.

Leanne Gilroy, Rainy Day at Buckingham Palace (Pen, felt tips and tea)

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Beautifully captured in pen, here the building doesn't come alive in colour, as in Whatley's depiction, but it's those tourist brollies that add variety to an otherwise grey, English day.

What we really loved are the splashes of colour that suggest the rain and the way that tea has been smeared to suggest both the gloom and the splendour of a very British scene.

Iconic London Architecture #5

The jury's out: Erotic Gherkin or ArcelorMittal Orbit?

The Gherkin Painting, Sonia Villiers (Acrylic on canvas)

It's the way that the appearance of the Gherkin on the horizon seems to bend the rest of London to its warped logic that tickled us here – that, and the poster-bright acrylics that were used to paint it.

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However, much as we loved the Gherkin option, there was a vociferous section of our group that just wouldn't budge.

Their preference was for Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond's playful addition to 2012's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, The Orbit, and it was stated with increasing vehemence and volume as the evening progressed.

The observation tower is quirky to say the least. The trunk of the 114.5-metre tall building consists of an elevator and stairs leading to an observation deck. The tube that drapes itself luxuriantly around the structure is the world's longest and highest tunnel slide. Hop in and you'll circle around the tower 12 times on your 40-second trip, with London's dramatic cityscape as your scenic surround.

The sheer colour and excitement of the structure is perfectly captured by Paul Kenton, who was commissioned to create this and other artworks to hang in the Olympic Hospitality Centre during the Games.

Paul Kenton, Dreams of London (Acrylic and oil on canvas)

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Over to you

Well, we may have failed to reach a unanimous decision but at least that means the door remains open for another night of decision and debate in our local pub!

Let us know in the comments below if you have a favourite piece of London architecture or know of a classic representation of one that you'd like to share.

Feel free to leave any art tips you have for creating cityscapes – and feel even freer to pop in and chat to us – or browse our range of art materials online – if you need any advice or inspiration.