Kings Cross 1 Feb 2017 and change of plan

The next outing will be on Wednesday 1st February 2017 (not the previous week) We will meet at 11:00 in the shelter of the Kings Cross exit which looks out on The birdcage. The bird cage (which is also known as the Identified Flying Object) is in square which is bordered on the south by Kings Cross and on the west by St Pancras International. From the underground head towards the International terminal

We will look at Kings Cross, St Pancras International, the new Francis Crick institute, and the British Library. You can google all these places.

The 4th Wednesday no longer suits me. I would like to change our outing day to the 4th Thursday. Please let me know if this would suit you. The first Wednesday is still fine for me, but the meeting at my home could be changed to the first Thursday if you would prefer that date.


The Royal College of Physicians and The Regent’s Park

The Regent’s Park and the Royal College of Physicians.


Updated by Natalie 02 Dec 2016

I am a car driver so until recently this is what I knew about Regent’s Park, or, as it is actually named, The Regent’s Park:-

  •       Travelling west along Marylebone Road after Great Portland Street station there is a very elegant curved Nast terrace on the left, and the start of a park on the right.
  •        Somewhere on the west of the park is a large mosque
  •       The Zoo is somewhere in the north of the park.


I now know that to the east of the park there is a 50 year old grade 1 Listed building which is open to the public and well worth visiting.  It is the home of the Royal College of Physicians.


Background about the park

 Henry VIII decided that the area of the park belonged to him, and in the early 19th century the Prince Regent and the architects Nash and Burton redeveloped it. This is why we have the lovely stucco buildings in and around the park. 

During the war a Nash building to the east of the park was badly damaged and the Queen agreed that it could be demolished and replaced with a modern building.

Background about the Royal College of Physicians

 Henry VIII authorised the founding of the RCP – a sort of guild or trade union for physicians.

They obviously prospered but during the Great Fire of London their 2nd headquarters were burnt, their money was stolen, and they almost became bankrupt.

 But they survived, and accumulated another set of interesting objects, and in the 1950’s decided that they needed to build their 5th headquarters.

 In 1958 they appointed the modernist architect Denys Lasdun to design their new headquarters.


Denys Lasdun 1914-2001

 The Lasdun building that Londoners know is the National Theatre built in 1976.  This is a typical brutalist building, with its exposed concrete.

 In the RCP building (1960-1964) the modern brutalist shapes are clothed in small ceramic tiles and special dark bricks.

 Before the RCP building Lasun had been mainly involved in large residential estates and afterwards he was responsible for a lot of university buildings, so it is not easy to see all his work.

The RCP building is his masterpiece and was in some ways made possible by the Wolfson foundation which said it would pay for whatever was necessary to make it a great building.


Getting to the RCP

 The RCP is in Park Avenue East, and this is more or less half way between Great Portland Street Station, and Regents Park Station.

Great Portland Street station is on the Circle, Hammersmith and Metropolitan lines so it is probably the easiest station for us.  Turn left along Marylebone Road, cross the road and enter the park through some special gates. 

Regents Park Station is on the Bakerloo line.  Turn right and cross Marylebone Road at the traffic light.  While walking to the traffic light if you look down into the park you will glimpse a path.  This was specially built so that nannies could safely wheel their prams from the main park in the north to the crescent shaped private gardens to the south of the road.


Once you are through the gates walk past a bock of Nash terrace houses on your right.

 The next little road on the right is part of the RCP.


The Nash Terrace.

Each little house in the terrace has a garden devoted to a different category of plants listed in an ancient pharmacopeia.  The labels of some of the plants give Shakespearean quotes mentioning those plants.


The elegant Nash building at the end of the terrace is accommodation used by some people attending conferences.


The small garden to the side of the main RCP building is a very interesting physic garden with about 1000 different plants.  During the spring and summer guided walks of the gardens are available.  I discovered them on the Open Gardens day, and I actually did 3 separate tours with the same guide. He managed to hardly repeat himself, and I bought a couple of his books which keen gardeners may borrow.


The main RCP Building.

 This building is a very busy conference centre.  On the day I visited I sneaked into some of the rooms during the lunch hour while the delegates were eating in the wide galleries which surround the spiral staircase.  If the rooms are not being used for conferences they can be visited at any time.


At all times the small museum is open and the galleries have very interesting artefacts and pictures.  Everything is very well labelled.  Among the artefacts are large wooden planks on which are mounted dried body parts.  They were used for teaching and only 2 sets exist in the world.

 The only disadvantage the building has is that it does not have a café which is open to the general public.  Conference organisers arrange catering for their guests.



 I know there are other good links but I have lost them. There is certainly a link telling us what we should see.  The same information is available in the free leaflets available from the college 

Please let me know of any links or errors that you find.’s_Park

 Lasdun was born in 1914 and died in 2001 so the RCP (1960-1964) building was built when he was 46-50.  At the same time he was designing Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge (1959-1963),_Cambridge#The_Hall_Building_.281963.29

 In 1979-83 he designed the IBM building next to the National Theatre

Visit 4 – 27 April 2016 – Marble Arch to Bond Street

We will be meeting in the Marble Arch Underground station (in case it is raining or snowing) at 11:30 at the Oxford Street exit i.e. look to your left when you exit the barrier.

On my first visit to that area I thought that there was only one building of interest.  On my 2nd visit I discovered that there are in fact 7 buildings to look at in that short walk.

Please let me know if you will be coming.

23rd March 2016 The Barbican

We are meeting at 11:30 inside the Barbican centre outside The Kitchen, a restaurant which extends onto the terrace so it is at the other end of the building from the Silk Street entrance.

The nearest underground is The Barbican, and to reach the entrance to the centre you have to walk along the tunnel which faces onto the underground entrance.

Next to the Barbican is a council estate built by the same architects.

Let me know if you will be joining us.

Book Review – Fifty Modern Buildings That Changed the World

This slim book by Edeyan Sujic is a useful supplement to Rowan Moore’s Why we Build.  Each building has a nice large picture and a single page of text. Several buildings appear in both books.  it would have been better if I had read both books simultaneously using this book to illustrate the poorly printed Why We Build.

ISBN 978–84091-680-5,   Octopus and Design Museum,  probably 2015

Available from Walthamstow Library.




Book Review – Why we Build by Rowan Moore

When I started the Modern London group one of the things which interested me was “Do the buildings work?”

Rowan Moore in this interesting book confirms that a lot of buildings don’t work.  I found his insight into the iconic modern homes interesting.  It had not occurred to me that the houses, and in particular their bedrooms, could reflect the state of the marriages and relationships of the architects.  He also confirms that Rodgers is very touchy about the Lloyd’s building with his lawyers insisting that the English edition of a book on architecture doesn’t contain the criticism of that building contained in the American edition.

The book is slightly too wordy and the illustrations (in the paperback edition) are lousy, but I found lots to interest me.  I was disappointed that he didn’t discuss the modern equivalent of the follies which grace some English stately homes.   In Minneapolis I realised that a Frank Geary art gallery was deceptive.  The interestingly shaped walls were bolted on metal panels, and the interesting looking roof did not reflect the internal structure of the building but consisted of brick built shapes.  I am sure Mr.Moore must know of many other similar buildings.

ISBN 978-0-330-53582-3    Picador 2012

Available from Walthamstow library.



24th Feb 2016 Visit to the Cannon Street Station area

On a lovely sunny day we started off by looking at the steel exoskeleton of the station.

We then looked at the exoskeleton of the neighbouring 80 Cannon Street. has a good picture of this.
I have written the following letter to the agents BNP Paribas Real Estate:-

Dear Mr Edwards 

I am the group leader of the Havering U3A’s Modern London Group.

Yesterday we explored the Cannon Street Station area, which includes 60 Cannon Street. According the this 1976 building has an exoskeleton made of pipes designed to carry water to cool the building if there was a fire.  They also state “This is an idea which never caught on.”

We were wondering why the idea never caught on.  Has the building had maintenance problems?  Are the pipes still filled with water, and if they are is it still the original water?

We would be grateful for any information you could give us.

We followed a zig-zag course southwards towards the Thames, west along Upper Thames Street under the rail tracks and then down to the river where we saw the remains of the Victorian station built when the Hanseatic league sold the land to the railways.  We walked between the Victorian brick and a glass wall which reflected the brick. The glass wall is the eastern part of the Nomura headquarters, One Angel Lane, designed by Fletcher Priest Architects, reusing parts of a redundant international telephone exchange, and
are some of the sites which discuss this interesting development.

A date for our diaries is the weekend of the 18th and 19th June 2016 when Nomura open the roof garden.  This provides produce for the staff canteen, and for staff to buy. It also has its own bee hives.  We can’t see the innovative interior, but we can notice the varied different types of glass developed for this building, and the dramatic shading on the river side.  If you ask the reception staff, they will let you see the model of the development.

Crossing over Upper Thames Street we went down a small lane and made a serendipitous discovery – a lovely little garden developed in 2010on the site of a St Swithin’s church which was destroyed during the war. tells us that the daughter of the Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr was buried there, and the sculpture in the garden is dedicated to her and to all women and children who have suffered in wars.