10 Modern Architectural Landmarks: Your London Must-See List.

Modern Architectural Marvels: Your London Must-See List

From the shard to the gherkin, the cheesegrater and the walkie-talkie, these infamous skyscrapers (and their comical nicknames) dominate the city’s iconic skyline.


There’s also so much more to London’s modern architecture than just its legendary skyscrapers and towering office blocks. Whether its train stations, the Tate galleries or tourist information hubs, London’s rich history of architectural innovation shines through.


We’re celebrating ten of London’s “must-see” modern architectural marvels. With a mixture of iconic London buildings and lesser-known gems… it’s time to explore our amazing capital city.

1. The Shard (32 London Bridge).

Completed: 2013
Location: 32 London Bridge St, SE1 9SG
Public Access: Yes (Reservations/Ticketed)
Website: www.the-shard.com

Designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, The Shard is the tallest building not only in London but the entire European Union.

Aside from its impressive 309.6 metres height, it’s also one of the most environmentally friendly skyscrapers in the capital. 95% of materials used to construct the building were recycled and its double-skin façade enables high energy efficiency.

The Shard’s 95 levels are home to hotels, restaurants, office spaces and apartments – with a public gallery on the 72nd floor offering unparalleled views of the city.

2. The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe).

Completed: 2003
Location: 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP
Public Access: No (restaurant reservations possible)
Website: www.thegherkinlondon.com

The 180-metre-tall Gherkin (otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe) is one of the most recognisable and controversial shapes of 21st century architecture. Boasting “connected, inspiring, healthy and truly unique” office spaces in the heart of the capital, its neo-futuristic style won the RIBA Stirling prize in 2004.

Whilst the Gherkin is a private office building, it’s also home to Searcy’s Helix restaurant and the Iris bar, offering panoramic views across London. It’s not normally open to the public, but there are occasional opportunities to explore the interior, for instance during Open House London.

3. London Aquatics Centre.

Completed: 2012
Location: Olympic Park, E20 2ZQ
Public Access: Yes
Website: www.londonaquaticscentre.org

As one of the key showpieces of the London 2012 Olympics, this building celebrates architect Zaha Hadid’s trademark curves – inspired by the fluidity of swimmers moving through water. 

The sculptural roof swoops over the main swimming pool (seemingly defying gravity with tiny ground contact points) in Hadid’s characteristic dramatic style. What’s more, the building is open to the public, with public swim tickets available for just over £5. So what are you waiting for?

4. City Hall.

Completed: 2002
Location: Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA
Public Access: No

City Hall is used as the headquarters of the Greater London Authorities, and proudly sits right next to the river Thames (right in-between London Bridge and Tower Bridge).

Designed by Norman Foster, the building’s energy-saving design (said to resemble an onion or snail) features a solar panelled roof and use of cold groundwater for cooling systems.

Inside, a helical walkway ascends around and above the main council chamber, leading to an exhibition area and observation deck at the top of the building.

5. Trinity Laban Dance Centre.

Completed: 2003
Location: King Charles Court, East Greenwich, SE10 9JF
Public Access: No
Website: www.trinitylaban.ac.uk

The architectural team at Herzog & de Meuron (the masterminds behind the Tate Modern redevelopment) won a Stirling Prize in 2003 for their shimmering design for the Trinity Laban Dance Centre.

Using coloured, translucent glass, the architects showcase the silhouettes of the dancers without compromising privacy. The shining structure is best viewed from Deptford Creek, where the building’s multicoloured façade wonderfully mingles with the murky London waters below.

6. Heron Tower (110 Bishopsgate).

Completed: 2011
Location: 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Public Access: No (restaurant reservations possible)
Website: www.herontower.com

Officially named 110 Bishopsgate, this 230-metre skyscraper was completed in 2011. It’s the tallest building in London’s financial district, standing out against the sky with its eye-catching angular metallic design.

Whilst Heron Tower is predominantly used for private office space, one of the easiest (and most enjoyable) ways to experience the futuristic interior and amazing views is to book-in for a meal at one of its restaurants such as Sushi Samba or Duck and Waffle.

7. Tate Modern Blavatnik Building.

Completed: 2016
Location: Bankside, SE1 9TG
Public Access: Yes
Website: www.tate.org.uk

Another building on this list designed by Herzog & de Meuron, this extension to Tate Modern Galleries was originally named The Switch House

With its unique pyramid-shaped design, the entire structure is clad in a perforated lattice of bricks. This unique façade allows light to enter the structure during the day and produce an ethereal glow in the evening. It also means the building boasts high thermal mass and plenty of natural ventilation.

The building was awarded both the RIBA national and RIBA London award in 2017.

8. The Cheesegrater (122 Leadenhall).

Completed: 2014
Location: 122 Leadenhall St, EC3V 4AB
Public Access: No
Website: www.theleadenhallbuilding.com

Better known as “the cheesegrater”, the 122 Leadenhall building primarily serves as office spaces in the heart of the capital. Set in the midst of London’s iconic skyline (with St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Gherkin both close neighbours), this construction is famed for its slender wedge shape.

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, it won the inaugural “City of London Building of the Year” award (selected from 15 public nominations). Winning particular praise was the way its tapering profile respects and celebrates views of St Paul’s Cathedral.

9. Coal Drops Yard (Kings Cross Station).

Completed: 2018
Location: Stable Street, N1C 4DQ
Public Access: Yes
Website: www.coaldropsyard.com

Thomas Heatherwick described his buildings at Coal Drops Yard as the moment when two characters in a cartoon “slam into each other and all the sparks fly”.

His extraordinary flowing roof joins two Victorian warehouses, located just behind Kings Cross Rail Station. This multi-level, shopping, eating and social space is open to the public all year round – and forms a key part of the area’s regeneration.

As a bonus tip, Kings Cross Station is another modern architectural delight, wonderfully renovated in 2012 by John McAslan + Partners, featuring an acclaimed semi-circular vaulted departure concourse.

10. City of London Information Centre.

Completed: 2007
Location: St. Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8BX
Public Access: Yes
Website: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/city-information-centre

It’s definitely the smallest structure on this list, but the City of London Information Centre (located next to the south transept of St Paul’s Cathedral) packs a punch.

A dynamic, angular structure that appears to almost rise out of the earth, it’s inspired by visitors’ zig-zag paths through the north end of the Millennium Bridge.

Winner of the 2009 RIBA Award for Architectural Excellence, the building is clad with 200 stainless steel panels. The glass façade welcomes visitors ready to learn about the city and even more opportunities to explore some amazing architecture…

Final thoughts.

With this list of London’s modern architectural gems, you won’t be stuck for ideas next time you’re strolling around the capital’s streets. It’s a city full of contrasts, excitement and wonderful buildings… the perfect place for some architectural exploration and inspiration.