24 September 12
Posted at 11:50
It was London Open House weekend on 22nd and 23rd September. London Open House is held annually, it's a weekend when around 750 buildings in London are open to the public, for free! Last year I visited Simon Robert's exhibition in Portcullis House over the Open House weekend, prior to that I had never heard of it. Many people have though and the Open House weekend is really popular. many of the buildings have very long queues. But don't be put off, the queues do move quicker than it's looks as though they will at first sight. The queue I joined last Saturday was for the Lloyds Building in Lime Street, and the queue was long, surrounding the building and stretching into the middle of Leadenhall Market. I guess, like many others, I was hoping to get some cityscape shots from the top of this 14 storey building. To be honest it was that opportunity, as opposed to seeing what he building was like on the inside that attracted me. I photographed the building from the outside back in 2011 on a cold January evening.
If you have never seen it before you will see it's unusual and must have been somewhat futuristic when it opened in 1986 (building commenced in 1978). The building was designed by Richard Rogers. People either love or hate the building - perhaps it should have been named the Marmite! For many years it stood out in that area of the city but today there is competition. The Gherkin is just opposite at St Mary Axe and right opposite at 122 Leadenhall Street a new skyscraper known as the Cheesgrater will dwarf the Lloyds buiding in 2014.
So, after 40 minutes or so I arrived at the front of the queue and entered the building. The first thing that hit me, with some surprise, is that the inside is like a giant atrium.
I began to understand why some people refer to it as the inside out building. It was breathtaking to look up. I took a few photos, then made my way across the main underwriting room to the lifts. The lifts are glass and on the exterior of the building. We went up to the eleventh floor, the lift too packed to attempt photography. On leaving the lift we walked along a glass sided gangway back into the main building. There were some interesting views but on a sunlit day with a lot of people wearing white reflections in the glass were a problem.
Back inside the central area the atrium area rises up in the centre with underwriting floors around the edge on every level. From eleven floors up there is an amazing view looking down onto the main underwriting room.
In the centre of the floor is the rsotrum. It contains the ships bell from HMS Lutine. Originally a French frigate, La Lutine, it was part of Napoleon's fleet until captured by the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Lutine. Lutine, insured by Lloyds, was sunk in 1799 and never salvaged. In 1859 the bell was brought up from the seabed and installed on Lloyds underwriting floor. It was rung whenever a ship was late returning. Today it is in the rostrum and is still rung on ceremonial occasions. After a few more photos and a chat with one of the many really helpful Lloyds staff who were on duty to answer questions on the building and Lloyds in general I made my way on to another set of lifts hoping to ascend to the roof. Now came my first and only disappointment of the day, the lifts were only going down, now access to the top floors and the views I was hoping for. I resigned myself to the only city skyline shots I was going to be taking would be from a descending lift complete with dirty glass and reflections. Anyway I had a go...
Although I had failed in my main objective I am really pleased I visited the buidling. There were lots of photo oportunities and it was really interesting to see the building inside and learn a bit about it, and Lloyds history.
Lloyds was the only buidling I visited on Saturday. Next year I will get my act together and visit a few. London Open House is a great idea and it is free.