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10 Stunning Examples of Must-See Modern Architecture in London

10 Stunning Examples of Must-See Modern Architecture in London

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London’s gorgeous skyline is filled with an abundance of architectural styles – these are the city’s modern architectural marvels you need to see IRL. 

Words by John Rogers 

Sleek shapes with glassy facades have replaced the in-your-face sharp-edged concrete Brutalism that epitomised post-war London architecture, adding a modern slant to London’s rich architectural heritage.

Modern architecture is now an accepted and appreciated part of London’s fabric, from famous landmarks like The Shard to hidden gems like the Donnybrook Quarter. 

Come with us as we take you on the best modern architecture tour London offers.

Modern Architecture in London You Should Have on Your Radar

The Shard

London Bridge

The Shard

First up, a huge feature of the capital’s skyline. Located next to London Bridge Station, The Shard became the EU’s largest skyscraper, standing at 1,017 feet tall, when it opened in 2013.  

Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and inspired by the Thames and its historical links with sailing ships, The Shard overcame a controversial genesis to become one of London’s most iconic and recognisable buildings. 

The Shard’s unique angled design contains 11,000 panes of glass that reflect the sunlight and sky to change the appearance of the building throughout the year.

Office space is the most extensive use of the building. However, there is also a hotel, several excellent bars and restaurants and a public observation deck on the 72nd floor, which provides unrivalled views across London.

City Hall

London Bridge 

Tower Bridge and the Scoop

Home to the London Assembly, City Hall lies on the south bank of the River Thames between Tower Bridge and The Shard. 

Designed by Norman Foster, City Hall’s tilting spherical shape is one of London’s modern architecture’s triumphs, with its entirely round building having no front or back. 

Pssst… Look closely enough and you’ll see the building’s unique and eye-catching design looks like it’s being blown towards Southwark by a strong breeze coming off the river.

Although rarely open to the public, there is an observation deck that sometimes hosts exhibitions and allows access to the walkway that circles the council chamber, offering excellent city views.

The Gherkin

City of London

The Gherkin

Located at 30 St Mary Axe and designed – once again – by Norman Foster, The Gherkin’s unique short cucumber style design has become arguably the most renowned contemporary architectural piece in London.

Opened in 2004 and primarily used for commercial office space, each floor rotates by 5 degrees compared to the one below, providing its unique windy rotating pattern on the building’s exterior.  

Members of the public can enjoy rooftop drinks at the Iris Bar or fine dining at the Helix Restaurant, both of which offer unrivalled 360° views across London’s iconic skyline.

20 Fenchurch Street – The Walkie Talkie

City of London 

The Sky Garden at Breakfast

Opened in 2015, 20 Fenchurch Street quickly became known as the “Walkie Talkie” building due to its aesthetic similarity to the communication device of the same name.

With its fascia curving subtly towards the Thames, the building has become an iconic sight along London’s Northbank skyline and is one of London’s most desired business addresses.

Though the real jewel in the building’s crown is the naturally ventilated Sky Garden which provides fresh air and greenery in the heart of the City over three levels. Also tucked away inside the building are the Fenchurch Restaurant, Darwin Brasserie, and Sky Pod Bars, all offering superb views across London (and delicious cocktails perfect for boozy sunset viewing).

London Aquatics Centre


London Aquatics Centre

Zaha Hadid designed the London Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympics, and it quickly became one of the most eye-catching public buildings in London.

Since the Olympics, enormous glass windows have replaced the sizable temporary spectator stands on either side of the building. These provide swimmers with beautiful views across the Thames to the O2, Canary Wharf, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

The gorgeous flowing lines of the roof resemble a wave of water, making this the perfect place to swim in one of the centre’s two 50-metre pools or the 25-metre diving pool. The centre is now fully open to the public and, better yet, prices match local leisure centres’ costs.

London Velodrome


London Velodrome

Also situated in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Lee Valley VeloPark Velodrome was the first building completed for the London 2012 Olympics.

Mike Taylor of Hopkins Architects designed the velodrome’s flowing shape and iconic roof to reflect the geometry of cycling while mimicking a racing bike’s lightweight and aerodynamic efficiency. 

What’s more impressive about this building is that it’s fully sustainable, with natural ventilation and a rainwater recycling system reducing its carbon footprint.

Since the Olympics, the venue continues to host international competitions and is also open to members of the public wanting to experience the thrill of track cycling.

Laban Dance Centre


Designed by the award-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the Trinity Laban Faculty of Dance is the world’s largest purpose-built contemporary dance centre.

Opened to great acclaim in 2003, winning the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize, this eye-catching building is designed to blend into the surrounding urban streetscape and inspire fluid dance movements. 

Located in Deptford, South-East London, the building’s exterior comprises semi-translucent cladding, showing off the dancers’ silhouetted movement. After dark, the faculty becomes a stunning coloured beacon with light and motion that complements the building’s purpose. 

Crossrail Place Roof Garden

Canary Wharf

Crossrail Place Garden
Crossrail Place Garden

It might have only opened in 2015, but Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a beautiful addition. It acts as a natural oasis amongst the high-rise, business-fuelled chaos of Canary Wharf.

Designed by Norman Foster & Partners, this roof garden is 300-metres long and features a trellis that covers the site made of glass and wood. This design allows plenty of natural light to enter the garden, allowing the plants to thrive and offering stunning night sky views after dark. 

Sitting almost on the Meridian line, the garden contains a stunning collection of rare and exotic plants from across the globe, providing a space to sit and relax every day until 9 pm. The garden also has an 80-seater performance space which hosts plays, festivals, art exhibitions and music all year round.

Serpentine North Gallery


Serpentine North Gallery

The Serpentine North Gallery in Kensington Gardens offers a compelling comparison of different architectural designs. Zaha Hadid’s 2013 extension, known as the Magazine, sits next to the original gallery, a Grade II-listed former gunpowder store that dates back to 1805.

The extension hosts the Magazine Restaurant, a curved glass-fronted building topped by a flowing, undulating white roof contrasting starkly with the gunpowder store next door.

Slovakian chef Tomas Kolkus has curated a contemporary menu focusing on sustainability. It is open from 9 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Sunday and offers a Breakfast or Main Menu, including plenty of options for little ones.

Donnybrook Quarter


We think we’ve saved the best ‘til last. The Donnybrook Quarter is a high-density, low-rise housing estate based in the East London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The estate spans two parallel streets linked by an open square and is one of London’s more weird and wonderful architectural projects.

Nicknamed Marbella on the Thames, the houses contain sharp, clean lines finished in a bright whitewash for a squarish, modernist feel. Each home has a front door that opens onto the street and a small terrace providing outdoor space. 

The estate is overlooked by neighbouring developments, giving the Donnybrook Quarter a slightly claustrophobic feel. However, it is a must-see for anyone seeking a dose of the unusual in East London.

Practical Tips for Exploring the Best Modern Architecture in London

While we’ve given you some ideas of where to find the best contemporary architecture London offers, fascinating buildings display modern architectural techniques throughout the city.

Skip the tube – we recommend keeping yourself above ground to hunt out the best, quirkiest and most fascinating modern architecture in London. 

Use the handy map below to hunt out those we’ve found for you on foot or bus and by simply keeping your eyes open and your wits about you – no doubt you’ll suddenly find dozens more examples of the very best in modern London architecture.

Contemporary Architecture in London: Map 

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