One of the things that fascinates me most about London is what author Jeanette Winterson calls its invisible lines, where an area suddenly changes its character completely.
The invisible line between the City, or financial district, and Shoreditch is a prime example. One minute you’ll be walking through a sterile landscape of glass and steel offices and their associated spawn – expensive wine bars, conservative shoe shops and sleek chain store food outlets – then suddenly you’re on Shoreditch High Street, walking past galleries, bars, organic food shops, an old church, a cluster of Vietnamese canteens on Kingsland road and all kinds of independent shops selling everything from bathtubs to handbags.
Some places straddle the two worlds – namely the kebab shops and the lap-dancing clubs, but generally the divide is emphatic. The architecture also changes dramatically – Shoreditch is a hive of warehouses, old Victorian buildings and churches, and post-war council housing, while five minutes up the road you’re caged into a landscape of steel and glass, a real urban jungle that’s hard on the feet and the soul.
Interesting, then, that the point at which the two worlds meet has just been re-defined by a rejected planning application. The Light Bar in Shoreditch, a former Victorian power station built in 1893, was going to be demolished to make way for a massive Norman Foster office and housing scheme. Now, after a successful campaign by local residents, businesses and local residents, Hackney Council decided to include the building in the Shoreditch conservation area, thus saving it (for now) from the bulldozers.
More information can be found on The Victorian Society website.