Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 Thames Boat Tour
Conference Technical Tour
June 13, 2013
Caroline Stephens, World Architecture News

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LONDON - The Thames Boat Tour started at Westminster Pier which lies below Westminster Palace and opposite County Hall and the London Eye. On boarding, delegates were handed mini branded binoculars by Hilson Moran and offered a glass of fizz.
Vince Ugarow of Hilson Moran welcomes delegates aboard the William B

The grey skies gave way to sunshine as the boat made its way west, up the river to Vauxhall, where the boat turned around. Peter Wynne Rees, head planner for the City of London, started his commentary with an urban myth: apparently the Russian word for “railway” is vokzal. The Russian parliamentary delegation visited the UK in the 19th century to visit the famed new railway station at Vauxhall, and when they asked what it was (meaning the building), they were told, “Vauxhall.”

When passing the Millbank Tower (the 118-metre/387 ft high skyscraper in the City of Westminster), Rees mused that it would be interesting to find out why tall buildings are constructed in isolation.

Millbank Tower (left) and the London Eye (right)
As the boat passed under Lambeth Bridge, delegates were advised that the pineapple sculptures on its plinth represent the time when pineapples first brought into UK!

Approaching Blackfriars Bridge, Rees enthused that it is a brilliant example of engineering, and the fact that it remained an operational train station over a heavily trafficked  and busy river whilst the bridge and station expansion is underway, is certainly commendable.
Blackfriars Bridge
We cruised past Arts Ark Downings Roads Moorings which is one of the oldest surviving river moorings in London. The group of historic trading vessels supports a community of artists who organize arts and crafts events.
City of London with some of London's most famous skyscrapers including 20 Fenchurch (left), Leadenhall Building (center), and 30 St. Mary Axe (right)
Further east, the boat crossed the plane of the Thames Tunnel, designed by Marc Isambard Brunel and built between 1825 and 1843. It was the first subterranean crossing of the Thames, one of the first submarine tunnels anywhere, and the first use of the tunnelling shield invented by Brunel. It began life as a pedestrian tunnel, but by 1869 it supported railway use, as it continues to do so today. The Thames Tunnel Mill in Rotherhithe is a listed mid 19th-century former mill building and warehouse. It is one of the earliest warehouse residential conversions in the Docklands.
Thames Tunnel Mill
The Prospect pub, also in this area, is one of London’s oldest. Upon approach to Canary Wharf, Rees remarked on the steady development of the group of buildings since its initiation in the late 1980s: “It looks like something is going on there, rather than standing alone.”
Canary Wharf with One Canada Square (center), the former tallest building in the United Kingdom
Rees pointed out a 1970s tower block, which had 6 stories added to generate more money, which was then spent on more housing. “The river is a great piece of public space,” he said, remarking on the Thames’ role as a “front yard” for vast and varied sections of London.
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