As a producer of fine art prints, I am fascinated by architecture and the chance to take memorable photographs of the buildings that we sometimes take for granted. This photograph is definitely one of my favourites, as I feel it’s the perfect juxtaposition of old and new. Southwark Cathedral and A Shard of Glass.
This may sound arrogant, but I don’t think I could have composed this shot any better if I’d spent an entire year trying to figure out the best place to stand. Although these are two very different buildings, separated by centuries, they actually look similar to each other if you use your imagination a little. It’s almost as if the tall glass structure is a modern re-imagining of the “tiny” church. I also like the way the two buildings seem to be staring at each other, as if in some kind of architectural Mexican stand-off!
I suppose I’d better introduce you to these buildings, and give you a little background information on them both.
The ancient building is Southwark Cathedral, which sits close to the south bank of the River Thames, close to London Bridge. It is supposed to be the oldest Gothic church in London, having been built initially in 1220, although a previous version of what was once an Abbey can be traced as far back as 1086. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1212, and was rebuilt over the next three centuries. Drawings from 1616 show the Cathedral (then a Priory) looking very recognisable to what you can see four hundred years later.
The modern building all Londoners will recognise as The Shard. It’s an 87-storey skyscraper that is the tallest building in the European Union. It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, and was completed in November 2012, being opened to the public in February 2013. The building is a mix of residences, restaurants, offices and a hotel.
For me, a building is never “just a building”. I love the way architecture evolves, and we can see evidence of that evolution all around us – we only have to look up! I just love the way this photograph perfectly encapsulates two buildings that stand at either end of an architectural time-line. I genuinely think it’s one of my best pieces, and I’m very proud to offer it as an art print photograph.
Oh, and if you’re ever in the UK and you’re not a native and you want to visit Southwark Cathedral, make sure you ask for directions for “Suth-urk” Cathedral, and not “South-walk”, else you’ll just get funny looks. Us Brits like to confuse visitors from abroad with some strange pronunciations of our place names. A friend of mine was once asked for directions to “Luga-Baruga”, which is how the person asking thought the English town of “Loughborough” was pronounced (it’s actually “Luff-bura”), plus there’s a place in Scotland called “Milngavie” which is confusingly pronounced “Mull-guy”. Even I, as a UK native, can’t work that one out!