Five Incredible Architectural Landmarks Hidden in London’s East End
Architect and Spitalfields local Chris Dyson lists fascinating buildings to visit in his beloved neighbourhood.
Chris Dyson runs a bustling architectural practice on the corner of Fashion Street that he founded in 2004. The studio is housed inside a renovated pub that’s akin to many of his practice’s projects: “Working with existing buildings means you are forced to innovate with ideas that work within that context,” explains Dyson.
Old Spitalfields Market plays a routine role in Dyson’s week; he uses Soma House for fitness, browses the antiques on Thursday mornings, walks his dog there most evenings, frequents the cheese shop Androuet, and if he’s looking for lunchtime inspiration he heads straight into the market, “before you know you have an idea about what you want to eat”.
Whitechapel Art Gallery
Architect: Charles Harrison Townsend
Completion: 1901, updated in 2009 by Robbrecht en Daem, and Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Style: Art Nouveau
Address: 77–82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7XQ
CD: “The building has been thoughtfully refurbished into an international-style gallery with a variety of new spaces and bronze leaf — I think the finish on top is gold leaf — embellishments on the facade by British artist Rachel Whiteread.”
He’s lived in Spitalfields since the early 90s after graduating from Glasgow School of Art, and moving to London to work for architectural heavyweights James Stirling Michael Wilford. When he and his wife were expecting their first child, they began searching for affordable family-size accommodation, eventually finding an intriguing shell and core building on Fournier Street.
The house was to be divided into two, so Dyson suggested they number one side 11, and the other 11½, honouring its original form. The offbeat address has become a notable doorway, making its way onto many Instagram feeds and making a headline appearance in the televised London 2012 Olympic countdown.
The Museum of Immigration
Grade II* listed
Completion: 1719 & 1869
Address: 19 Princelet Street, London E1 6QH
“The character and grit, the community, the convenience of getting to the West End, doing interesting things… it’s brilliant”
Dyson invested all his earnings and time renovating the Fournier Street property into a family home and quickly fell in love with the area: “The character and grit, the community, the convenience of getting to the West End, doing interesting things… it’s brilliant, I loved it then and still do now.”
A true insider to the area, Dyson shares his list of fascinating and distinguished buildings to visit, each one standing as a great asset to the neighbourhood and London as a whole.
The Spitalfields Rectory
Architect: Nicolas Hawksmoor
Address: 2 Fournier Street, London E1 6QE
CD: “Note the deep-set windows and bold lines — a little stronger and more forceful than its neighbours. Built and designed by speculative builders at the time.”
Architect: Charles Harrison Townsend
Completion: 1895 (6 years before the Whitechapel Gallery)
Address: 230 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4QH
CD: “A fantastic space for all sorts of post-work educational facilities like learning Italian or opera classes — I know lots of people in the neighbourhood use it that way, as a learning and life enhancing facility, which is great.”
Sandy’s Row Synagogue
Grade II listed
Completion: 1763 (Renovated in 1867 by Nathan Solomon Joseph)
Address: 4a Sandy’s Row, London E1 7HW
CD: “This building was originally built in 1766 by the French Huguenots as a church. As is common in this neighbourhood, changing demographics led to it becoming a synagogue, serving some 450 families. In 2010 following a lottery grant, the building had much-needed repairs carried out, preserving the life of the building for another 100 years; plans are ongoing to make the building more engaging once again to the local community.”