Surveying London from the BT Tower

The weekend just passed was Open House, an annual look behind the front doors of some of London’s best architectural gems.   In some cases this is quite literal and people’s own houses with architectural significance are included, new build ecological houses back to listed historical homes.   One of the main highlights rather than snooping around someone’s semi are the iconic buildings whose doors are cast open, most of these are only accessed via a ballot of which I was lucky enough to win this year, of over 35,000 applicants I won a pair of tickets to ascend the BT Tower.

Not usually open to the public it was a rare treat, my excitement shared by other visitors as we were grinning from ear to ear as we were being tightly security checked, we were then directed up to some seating where we were entertained by a brilliant video from the 60’s on the Tower’s creation.  I loved that they hadn’t updated it and its grainy quality added to the mystery.  The tower itself is not the most attractive of buildings and in a London of that age where the buildings suffered much bomb damage signalled the birth of it’s rebuild, the film captures the mood of the time perfectly,  people stopped in their tracks in awe of this tower being erected and the excitement generated captured perfectly in the film.  The soundtrack came straight out of a sci-fi B movie added at the time I imagine to give it a futuristic effect but today the music made for an eerie quality which was in keeping with the aura surrounding the day.

Eventually we lined up for the lifts, I was amazed by the speed it shot up 34 floors, a counter tells you how many feet per second and it must have taken under 30 seconds, a slight pop in the ears the only time you realise you are moving so fast.  Upon exiting the lift London is spread out before you, we find a seat and quickly gain our bearings, I am sat looking over Regents Park when the revolving begins and the tower that housed a revolving restaurant back in the day begins its 360 degree navigation of the city.

Looking South across Soho, Centrepoint and The London Eye

The landmarks look more defined, and appear so much closer than you would expect.  I could recognise my cycle route to work and was able to pinpoint my house, streets you walk are so much clearer being in the centre of things rather than from the London Eye’s perspective .   The Shard is clearly visible as it begins its climb to the sky, whilst other more well-known landmarks like St Paul’s are more obscured than the view you will get from Hungerford Bridge.   This is what excited me, just when you think you have seen all the views of London, a new perspective opens it up all over again, what I gleamed from this was the layout of the streets was interesting and the footprint of buildings you only see from ground level cause the architects vision come to life.

The steel structures of Canary Wharf to the left dwarfs in comparison to the Shard still in construction. Tower Bridge and St Paul's are also visible

You can get great views from the London Eye still but you can get just as good free views from Parliament Hill or Primrose Hill and the perspective you get from standing on one of many bridges straddling the Thames gives a different take also, but these were all surpassed by the view from the BT Tower.  It is a shame that people can’t appreciate its views for more than one day a year and only then if you are lucky to be selected,  there are plans to open the revolving restaurant once more, I’d be one of the first to book a table should this come to fruition.

After we left we were each given a  personalised certificate of the tour which was a suprise bonus. I departed the Tower and headed home via nearby Fitzroy Square, admiring the plaques for George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf on its houses and imagined the London of yesteryear, I glanced back up at the Tower standing in stark contrast to the Georgian Square I stood in.   For a landmark that is often accused of being unsightly, to be able to enter into the belly of the beast and hurtle skywards for that kind of view was extremely rewarding, a symbol of technological advancement and triumph and an icon of our great city.


Regents Park

Taxis stop to refuel

University College

The City and Canary Wharf

Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament

Junction of Euston Road and Hampstead Road

Isolated church and crypt in the remains of the former Middlesex hospital site

Wembley Stadium

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