National Geographic : 2000 Jun
When you arrive here, THINK IT'S ONE of Richard's," said Norman Foster, as he banked his white JetRanger helicopter over the Albert Bridge and began to rip eastward along the Thames toward Greenwich. A thousand feet below us was a new riverside residential complex, which from the air looked like a Maya pyra mid. Ahead of me Foster's well polished pate gleamed in the sun. The rivalry between the dueling knights of British archi tecture, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, is well known. When Rogers was ennobled in 1998, he chose the title Lord Rogers of Riverside. When a sim ilar honor was bestowed on Foster last year, he went for Lord Foster of Thames Bank. But when I asked the name of the building below us, Foster reacted with studied vagueness, as though the other man's creation was not even significant enough to have registered on his mental radar screen. "I think it's called Montevetro," he said, gunning the chopper past it. "But I'm not sure." Now our helicopter was hovering like a dragonfly over what looked like two circular swimming pools: the fountains in Trafalgar Square. As if on cue, a herd of double-decker buses formed into a continuous red stripe around one edge of it. As the helicopter banked again, some of the great architectural set pieces of the past came into view: Bucking ham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the British Museum. Beyond them, stretching 29 miles from north to south, 36 miles from west to east, Europe's greatest city unfolded to the horizon like a giant Lego model laid out on a kitchen table. Inspired by the millennium and fueled in SIMON WORRALL survived in London during the 1970s by critiquing plays for the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. His writing has appeared in the New Republic, Die Zeit, Esquire, and the Sunday Times magazine (London), among others. This is his first article for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. part by the National Lottery, London is in the middle of a building frenzy. The farther east we flew, the more I began to catch sight of the new buildings that are redefining its sky line. "The brick power station down there is the Tate Gallery's new museum of modern art," shouted Foster through the headphones, swinging us around for a better look at the revitalized area of Bankside. "And over there is the Millennium Bridge, which we are building. It will reconnect London's most historic dis trict, the City, with Bankside." In a moment Foster was pointing down at a construction site at Canary Wharf, part of the centerpiece of the new Docklands financial district. "That's our new headquarters for the Fused in sweaty aban- f don, dancers sway to the beat of soca (a mix of soul and calypso) at the annual Notting Hill Carnival, one of Eu rope's largest festivals. It was begun in the 1960s by West Indian immigrants in response to area race riots. Today the carnival lures fans from around the globe. The melange suits this city of seven million, one-quarter of them from ethnic minorities. Says Grenada-born Leo Simon, right, "At carni val you don't feel any of the normal tension."