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View From The Shard | © sebastianfiebak
View From The Shard | © sebastianfiebak
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7 Architects Who Shaped London: Middle Ages to Modernity

Picture of Vicky Jessop
Updated: 3 October 2016
London is a city that pulls in over 17 million tourists a year for a reason – it is a delectable mix of historic and cutting edge buildings. The designs and styles of some have become iconic. The people who helped create this vibrant architectural mixture of buildings and styles were a select group of influential architects, whose vision and determination helped to shape the London that we know today. We check out seven of the most influential architects.
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Christopher Wren

Most Famous Building: St. Paul’s Cathedral.

One of the most famous architects in British history, Sir Christopher Wren designed buildings from America to London in his lifetime, the most famous of which is undoubtedly St. Paul’s Cathedral. Born in 1632, Wren was not just an architect, but also a physicist, an astronomer and one of the founding members of the Royal Society. He became involved in the repairs of St. Paul’s in 1661, and it took up the duration of his career – an incredible 37 years. Seen as his greatest achievement, it dominates the London skyline and is one of its most iconic buildings.

St Paul’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, UK, 020 7246 8350

St Paul's Cathedral © Nanonic/Wikicommons
St Paul’s Cathedral | © Nanonic/Wikicommons
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Renzo Piano

Most Famous Building: The Shard

What list of London architecture would be complete without The Shard? Renzo Piano is the Italian architect responsible for this skyline-dominating building, which is Europe’s tallest skyscraper. Named by Time Magazine in 2006 as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, Piano is justly famous for a multitude of different buildings and designs, from the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris with Geofranco Franchini, all the way to the New York Times Building in Manhattan. All this hard work has paid off: The Shard is immensely popular even with cynical Londoners, and its 13th floor restaurant and 69th floor viewing platform attract locals and tourists alike.

The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG, UK, 0844 499 7111

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Sir Charles Barry

Most Famous Building: Houses of Parliament

Though the Houses of Parliament – specifically, the Palace of Westminster – has existed in various forms since the Middle Ages, the buildings almost completely burned down in the fire of 1834. Despite William IV offering Buckingham Palace as the new Parliament, Sir Charles Barry, won the opportunity to remake the Palace with his Gothic designs. Working with his partner Augustus Pugin – a partnership that continued until Pugin’s mental breakdown in 1852 – the two designed and created the Houses of Parliament as they are today. Despite a number of setbacks – like the site for the Victoria Tower being, rather alarmingly, built on quicksand – it was completed in 1870 and is still in use today. Barry later went on to build Trafalgar Square.

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK, 020 7219 3000

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Norman Foster

Most Famous Building: The Gherkin

Otherwise known as Baron Foster of Thames Bank, Foster has been responsible for many well-recognised modern buildings in London – including that most famous haunt of Alan Sugar, the Gherkin. A Stockport local, Foster’s father worked in Manchester-called one of the ‘workshops of the world’, and correspondingly Foster took a keen interest in engineering and designing from a young age. It paid off: he later founded his own company, Foster and Partners, which built not only the German Reichstag in Berlin but the London Gherkin and the new Wembley Stadium in 2007. If you’ve ever walked over and admired the London Millennium Bridge, thank Foster.

The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8EP, UK, 020 7071 5029

Denys Lasdun

Most Famous Building: National Theatre London.

The National Theatre of London is one of the most controversial buildings in London. Perched on the riverbank, it is a triumph of modernist and ‘brutalist’ architecture designed by none other than Deny Lasdun. Born in 1914, Lasdun served during the Second World War and only turned his talents to architecture afterwards, working for the architectural company Tecton. It was during this time that he became famous for the defining ‘cubist style’, which championed concrete, abstract shapes and angularity. Lasdun later became famous for designing a number of buildings that would come to encapsulate the ‘Brutalist’ fashion of the 1960s, including the ‘cluster blocks’ in Bethnal Green and the Royal College of Physicians in London, which is Grade One-listed.

National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX, UK, 020 7452 3000

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John Nash

Most Famous Building: Regent St. Buildings.

By far one of the most prominent Georgian architects, Nash was responsible for redesigning much of the London we know and love today, including iconic buildings such as Buckingham Palace. Born in London in 1752, he remained in London for most of the rest of his life – apart from a short interlude to the depths of Wales, where he lived for 13 years – and was at the forefront of the ‘Picturesque’ movement in architecture. Over his 50-odd year career, Nash redesigned central London – in addition to the Palace, there was Regent Street, St. James’ Park and Piccadilly Circus. The signature curve of Regent Street is largely thanks to him.

Regents Street, London, UK

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Basil Ionides

Most Famous Buildings: Claridge’s, Mayfair.

Though perhaps not one of the best-known architects on this list, Basil Ionides was one of the pioneering designers of the Art Deco movement in 1920s London. Born in Scotland, he served as a seaman in World War One, going on to marry the daughter of the 1st Viscount Bearsted, Nellie Samuel in 1930 – who was herself an expert in Oriental Porcelain. Ionides’ work eventually went onto help define the Act Deco movement, as he went onto redesign both Claridge’s in Mayfair, the Savoy Theatre and the interior of the Savoy Hotel – as well as Kaspar, the ‘lucky’ house guest who was placed at the table if there were 13 diners.

Claridges, 49 Brook St,, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR, UK, 020 7629 8860