One Saturday last month I went on a four-hour cycling tour of London's Baroque buildings. It was hosted by Open City, a charity which champions good architecture and design in the capital — the same people who run Open House London weekend.
The impossibly titled "Architecture on your bike — Baroque 'n' Roll revivals" was lead by expert architectural guide David Garrard of English Heritage.
David was friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, as he lead us around the Square Mile, stopping to point out buildings that were built in, or inspired by, the Baroque style — theatrical, ornate and dramatic.
Some of these buildings included Sir Christoper Wren's St Paul's Cathedral (our 10am starting point), Hawksmoor's St Mary Woolnoth Church, the Lloyd's Building and the Chartered Accountants Hall at One Moorgate (see ornate frieze above).
After about two hours exploring the city in relatively leisurely fashion, we then crossed the river at Blackfriars Bridge.
After our first stop to admire Lambeth Towers (above), built in 1965, we then got to do some "proper" cycling as we headed south-east to Greenwich, via Camberwell School of Art, on some busy main roads.
By the time we reached our final destination, Sir Christopher Wren's Royal Naval College (above), I was in need of something to eat and drink. We'd been on the road since 9am (the tour started at 10am but T and I cycled 6 miles to the start point) and it was now 2pm.
Most of us reconvened at the Trafalgar Tavern for a beer (interestingly, many of the dozen or so participants worked in professions associated with the built environment, such as town planning, engineering and architecture) and then it was up to us to figure our way back home. (T and I cycled via Canary Wharf, which wasn't exactly straightforward, and by the time we got in the door it was after 5pm and we'd cycled the grand total of 59.1km.)
The tour was a fantastic way to combine two of my loves — cycling and architecture — but next time I'd pack some snacks and maybe a sandwich to eat along the way.
Also note that this particular tour wasn't suitable for a new or nervous cyclist — for most of the trip the guide cycled up front and and everyone was expected to follow, and at least half of the journey was made on busy A roads. Loose, comfortable clothing is a must (I wore my normal commuter wear of baggy shorts and fluoro jacket) — and don't forget your camera!
To see photographs of the tour, please visit my gallery.
The next Open City architecture tour by bike is on Saturday November 3. It starts in Kensington High Street and focuses on Art Deco buildings. You can find out more here.
Thank you to Open City for providing me with a complimentary ticket to experience the Baroque tour.