Calendars \ Calendar 2015 \ Contribution by Billie Lee

London's Architectural Tour


Generoso has kindly invited me to give you a brief insight into the architecture of London and to share my favourite places and buildings with you. I am Billie Lee, architect and co director of Horden Cherry Lee Architects (
I have lived and worked in London for over 25 years. I live near Hyde Park and work in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, very close to the Royal Academy.
My firm, Horden Cherry Lee Architects Ltd., was established in 1999 by its directors: Richard Horden, Stephen Cherry and Billie Lee. It has earned a reputation for designing and delivering high quality architecture and has received a range of national and local awards. Current key projects in London include:
Kingsgate House
Arundel Great Court
Newfoundland Canary Wharf
Some of you will be very familiar with London, some may be visiting the city for the first time; I have mainly chosen buildings that are in the vicinity of the Royal Academy, and for the more adventurous a few wider context suggestions like exploring the River Thames, The City and Canary Wharf. To keep things succinct and save repetition I have kept my text short and provided links to useful web sites should you wish to read more.

The Royal Academy

The Royal Academy, our wonderful host for the Calendar Launch, has a fascinating history: Burlington House was originally constructed in the 1660’s and was occupied for the first 200 years as a town palace. In 1854, it was bought by the government and converted into a home for the arts & sciences; it became then known as “The Royal Academy”. The building has undergone numerous changes since its inception to today. Many architects and artists have played a part in the evolution of Burlington House including: Sir John Denham, James Gibbs, Colen Campbell, Sebastiano Ricci, William Kent, Samuel Ware (also Burlington Arcade), Robert Banks, Charles Barry, Sydney Smirk, Richard Norman Shaw, Cadbury Brown, and more recently, Sir Norman Foster.


Next to the Royal Academy is The Burlington Arcade, it was commissioned nearly 200 years ago by Lord George Cavendish who lived next door in Burlington House (now the Royal Academy). It was the city’s first shopping mall. A model replicated many times particularly in the west end of London. The pedestrian arcade, with smart uniform shop fronts under a glazed roof, has always been an upmarket retail location. It is patrolled by Burlington Arcade Beadles in traditional uniforms including top hats and frockcoats. The Burlington Arcade was the successful prototype for larger glazed shopping arcades, beginning with the Saint-Hubert Gallery in Brussels and The Passage in St Petersburg, the first of Europe's grand arcades, to the Galleria Umberto I in Naples or the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.


London’s Squares are a remarkable urban landscape, some like Trafalgar Square were originally built as public open spaces, others were built as private communal gardens and are still used by residents surrounding them. Our office is located on Berkeley square, it was originally designed in the middle of the 18th century by William Kent and is a fine landscaped space planted with magnificent London Plan Trees. It inspired the 1939 song “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. Nearby Grosvenor Square is home to both the Italian Embassy and American Embassy which was designed by Eero Saarinen.

Royal Parks

There are eight Royal Parks; Busy Park, Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regents Park, Richmond Park, St James Park, they were originally owned & used by the Royal Family for recreation including hunting, they are now public open spaces following introduction of the Crown Land Acts in 1851.

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens

My favorite art gallery in London is the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, it has an ever changing programme of contemporary art exhibition’s and every year it hosts the pavilion project inviting international architects to design a temporary structure adjacent to the gallery in the wonderful park land setting. This year the pavilion has been designed by the Chilean Architect Smiljan Radic’.
Last the year the Serpentine Sackler gallery opened in the nearby Magazine Building, a converted gallery space and new restaurant designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. We enjoyed our office Christmas party there last December, it was a great event.

St James's Church, Piccadilly

Just along Piccadilly from the Royal Academy is St James's Church, designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren who was also responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral. It is an elegant, well proportioned building located very close to Piccadilly Circus. Lunchtime & evening concerts are held there and are an excellent way to experience the building.

The Economist Group Buildings

Very close to the Royal Academy, located within 18th century streets of St James's are the Economist Group Buildings. Designed by the husband & wife Architects Alison & Peter Smithson, it is a cluster of three buildings with office, residential and retail uses around a public Plaza completed in 1964. The project is a good example of brutalism design with elegant proportions, fine detailing and extensive use of Roach bed Portland Stone, an unusual limestone from the south coast of England that has a large visible sea shell content.

The River Thames

The River Thames flows from west to east, it is 215 miles long and has been an important trade route throughout its history, key to London’s success as a centre of world trade.
The first bridge across the River Thames in London was located where the current London Bridge stands. It has been rebuilt many times since the Romans first constructed a river crossing there around 2,000 years ago. The London Bridge area is undergoing huge transformation, led by the tallest building (and highest champagne bar) in London, the Shard Tower, designed by the Italian Architect Renzo Piano.
The best way to experience the River Thames is to take a walk or a river cruise. Most of the best buildings are along the north side of the river so it is better to be on the south side, looking north (with the south light behind you). You will be able to see great buildings old and new, including the in-progress demolition of the Swiss Hotel on the Embankment to enable the construction or our Arundel Great Court project !
Walk along London's Queen's Walk to go over Westminster Bridge, along the south bank of the River Thames towards Tate Modern Museum, then back over the river on the Millennium footbridge to St Paul's Cathedral. Thames Clippers provide a regular boat service along the river stopping at many interesting places.

The City of London

The City of London has many fantastic modern office buildings including the very famous Gherkin by Sir Norman Foster and the Lloyds Building by Sir Richard Rodgers. Both architects have built many buildings in the City of London, see link below.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf has striking architecture, landscape setting, retail spaces and fine restaurants; it is a beautiful and modern part of London and home to our Newfoundland project.

Other Related Links

Victoria & Albert Museum

The Design Museum

The Architecture Foundation

Royal Institute of British Architects

Billie Lee 5th August 2014

Billie Lee

Billie Lee

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