If you’re a second- or third-time visitor to London – or even a first-time visitor, but one that’s beginning to familiarise yourself with the place and where things belong in it – you may have wondered how the capital’s appearance, layout and streets have developed over time. Well, if you’re curious or just a mite intrigued and fancy going somewhere that’ll engage your little grey cells on the subject, then the New London Architecture museum, just off Tottenham Court Road (thus, located in the very centre of the city), is the attraction for you.
Alternatively known by the more descriptive, but mouthful of a moniker that’s the ‘London Centre for the Built Environment’, this venue’s dedicated not just to helping visitors understand why the modern capital looks the way it does, but also to giving them an impression of how it’ll look in the near future. Most of all that’s because its centrepiece is an impressively comprehensive 1:1500 scale model of the city; specifically, its central and eastern regions. This model features not just every building presently standing, but also all of those – as well as transport links (Crossrail and Thameslink included) – that are currently in development and expected to be constructed in the years to come.
Naturally, this model works and is effective because it grows as London grows itself (it’s updated every three months), thus enabling you to orientate yourself via major landmarks that are easy to spot – the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the BT Tower, for instance – while checking out the up and coming developments set to change the face of certain districts.
Indeed, a good tip is to compare and contrast the model with a map app on your smartphone while you’re standing in front of it; that should further aid you in understanding exactly where all its constituent details are located and can be found in reality. Moreover, you can even use the model – and your map app – to hunt down wherever it is you’re staying in the city, especially if you’re making use of London hotel packages and staying centrally at somewhere like the Park Grand London Paddington hotel. That’s truly how to orientate yourself, all right!
Additionally, you can get a deeper appreciation of the redevelopments taking place in different areas by having a gander at the variety of different panels that line the walls of the model’s room. For example, the city’s public transport authority Transport for London (TfL) has a permanent presentation here, as you may expect, which offers great detail on the Overground and Underground rail lines that are being built and set to criss-cross the city in the far from distant future. Meanwhile, other panels concern themselves with the history of London’s development – from this you’ll learn details like the fact the capital’s population was at its official zenith (a cool 8.6 million) in 1939 – so just prior to World War Two, before wartime evacuation and subsequent urban planning saw the establishment of nearby ‘new towns’.
Note too that, should you be interested in learning about the history, architecture and streetscape of a specific London area then, for a small fee, you can request an organised tour of the centre – merely hop over to the venue’s website for details and, don’t forget, be sure to book in advance!
Location: 26 Store Street WC1E 7BT
Open: 9am-6pm Monday-Friday; 10am-5pm Saturday
Nearest Tube stations: Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines); Goodge Street (Northern line)