Nothing to do with Hampstead Heath and very little in the way of green, but if you fancy a really fascinating walk, can I suggest an hour or so wandering around the insurance district of the City of London taking in the annual Sculpture in the City exhibition. And while you are there do also take in the truly extraordinary architecture of the city – 16th century churches cuddling up to grandiose 19th century corporate buildings loomed over by 20th century glass and steel and 21st century sky-high glass pyramids.
And all wound around tiny mediaeval lanes – Garlic Hill, Ironmonger’s Lane, Gutter Lane, Undershaft – making construction of a 50 storey block a logistical nightmare. You may end up with an aching neck but wherever you turn architectural icons – the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie – hover above you.
And looking equally comfortable in Undershaft, the 16th century St Helen’s Church (one of the very few to have survived both the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the 1940s blitz) is happy to play host to one of Sculpture in the City’s 20 pieces – Mark Handforth’s Four.
Sculpture in the City is a joint initiative of the City of London and businesses in the insurance district. It is run by Stella Iaonnou, an architect turned exhibition organiser, who has guided the project since its launch in 2010. Each exhibition runs for a year during which round 20 large public sculptures from world class sculptors and relative newcomers are on display in the open spaces dotted around the city.
This cheering Flower of Hope, for example, by Jun T. Lai sits outside Fenchurch Street station, along with its fellow Flowers of the Sky and of Life – not only improving the dreariest Monday morning, but providing a perfect climbing frame for any passing child.
Round the corner in Cullum Street we find Bram Ellens’ Orphans. A ‘family’ made entirely of discarded paintings belonging to people now dead that the artist retrieved from thrift stores, bric a brac shops and undertakers so that he could give them a new life ‘containing the energy of the original artist and the attachment of the deceased owner.’
And round the corner again in Cunard Place Regitze Engelsborg Karlsen‘s incredibly life like ‘figures’ made from gravel, limestone and canvas give concrete life to her belief that we need ‘restart our partnership with landscape and its materials’.
A totally different partnership is on display in Leadenhall market whose aisles have also been co-opted as exhibition space! This is one of Tatiana Wolka‘s sculptures created from recyled plastic bottles.
And then, for a little variety and nothing to do with Sculpture in the City, at 120 Fenchurch Street you have a large roof garden with views all over the city (plus a restaurant if you want to do the job properly) – a quick look around on a rather rainy afternoon followed by a view of the Gherkin from the garden.
And down in the foyer a somewhat disconcerting video installation dissolving from sea to trees to skyscrapers on a truly massive screen above your head.
For more on all of the scultpures check in to the site which also give details on the soundscapes and the Bloomberg audio guides that have been designed to go with it. And before you leave, do just take a wander round the Lloyds building created by Richard Rogers in 1986. It is still an extraordinary building and has actually worn a good deal better than its sister creation, the Pompidou Centre in Paris.