Tuesday's book: London Docklands by Elizabeth Williamson and Nikolaus Pevsner (Penguin, pounds 11.99)
Tuesday 24 February 1998
The lure is its pyramid-topped tower by Cesar Pelli, Britain's first skyscraper, at 800ft (244 metres) the tallest building in Europe when it was completed in 1991. And what a photogenic thing it is. glistening proud in the sun - storey upon storey of neat, regular rectangular windows, topped by a light that winks, lighthouse-like, through clouds and at night.
The county-by-county Buildings of England (created by the late Sir Nikolaus Pevsner) has reacted with speed to the Docklands' ongoing building boom. It has even selected the area, a mere section of its East London and the Docklands volume, for a new foray into paperback.
Though taller and slimmer than the hardbacks, this book follows the same format: a general architectural history followed by a building-by-building description of each area, suggested perambulations, and a central clump of black-and-white photographs. Pevsner died in 1983, so accounts of new buildings are the work of Elizabeth Williamson, who has maintained the tradition of detailed description and objective criticism.
It is a tale of commerce, industry and social responsibility: of ambitious 18th- and 19th-century docks, warehouses and seamen's missions, computerised, air-conditioned office buildings, spectacular old churches (such as Hawksmoor's St George-in-the-East, 1714-29) and handsome modern ones such as the stripy- bricked Most Holy Trinity, Bermondsey (1951-61) by HS Goodhard-Rendel.
Docklands stretches for only 10 miles north and south of the Thames. After the Second World War, there were constant unsuccessful attempts to regenerate it with light industry. It took the establishment of an Enterprise Zone in 1982 and the deregulation of "Big Bang" in 1986, to enable Canary Wharf to become the home of a burgeoning financial sector.
Many British architects are represented. Richard Rogers and John Outram have both contributed pumping stations. Norman Foster's buildings include Canary Wharf's Jubilee Line station. International architects include Philippe Starck and IM Pei. As the Millennium Dome attracts even more visitors, anyone working in or travelling to this brutal, exciting waterfront world will be illuminated by this guide.
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