Thursday, July 2, 2009

What’s With The Archaeological Site By London Bridge?

Face it, London is so ancient you feel like you’re walking in the footsteps of Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare.

On a recent visit a few blocks from the historic Tower of London, currently home to Dressed To Kill, a fascinating collection of King Henry VIII’s armour never before seen since the time of his daughter Elizabeth I, and past the London Bridge, another piece of architectural mastery, I spotted a block-sized abyss on 20 Fenchurch Street.

Construction worker types congregated around the chasm, some with arms crossed, while others were scratching their heads. I peered out from my cab that resembles a film prop from the sixties TV hit The Avengers, and stared in unison with the now growing brood.

What is it?

Turns out last year the Museum of London Archaeology Service ( ) uncovered a late Roman masonry cellar here. What baffles the team is the mysteries surrounding a glass vessel found with the letter A. Nowhere in London have archaeologists ever been able to find Roman glass of this quality dating to the fourth century.

No one knows what to make of this extraordinary piece and experts predict likely it will remain a mystery.

So what’s going to replace the gaping hole? That’s no mystery. Try a 36-storey building nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie. Located in London’s emerging “Eastern Cluster,” the estimated over £200m (US$400-million) development is the brainchild of Uruguayan-American architect Rafael Vinoly ( who brought us the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the new Fortabat Museum in Buenos Aries. Needless to say, the radical complex has been a thorn in the side of some critics.

Originally the new yet-to-be-built structure was going to hover nearly 200 metres tall, with many reporting it would severely impact St. Paul’s Cathedral. Back to the drawing board it was. Design alterations have been made and the Walkie-Talkie is expected to be completed by 2012. To date three phases of archaeological excavations have been planned with the third one now in high gear.

Oh what would the ghosts who flowed over London Bridge in T.S. Elliot’s Waste Land say?

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