We challenge our contributors to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat they will face the same questions ranging from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out what Londoners think about their city. The questions are the same but the answers vary wildly.
Jack Self is an architect and journalist based in London. He is Director of REAL and Editor-in-Chief of Real Review. Jack’s work is dedicated to promoting democracy, inclusivity and equality of many kinds. His clients and collaborators include the British Council, IKEA, MINI, Landsec, Prada, Virgil Abloh (LVMH), Alyx, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Price Waterhouse Cooper and Junya Watanabe (Comme des Garcons). In 2016, Jack curated the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale with the show Home Economics. Jack’s other work includes curation, exhibition design, spatial strategy, brand consultancy, communications, publishing, editing, writing and creative direction. Jack Self is a registered architect with the UK ARB.
What’s your secret London tip?
One of my favourite trips around London is to begin by taking the DLR from Bank through the east and Canary Wharf, down the Isle of Dogs to Mudchute, then use the pedestrian tunnel to go under the Thames, walk up the hill at Greenwich to the observatory, then take a Clipper ferry back through the centre of London along the river to Westminster. In about 3 hours you see almost the entire centre of the city: from its ancient Roman core to its maritime and imperial periphery, and then back to its political heart.
What’s your secret London place?
When I’m in the West End, I like to go into the Angel pub in St. Giles for a pint (near Tottenham Court Road). Like all pubs run by Samuel Smith, it doesn’t have any music (making it relaxing) and the food is pretty good. It was originally designed with a mens’ and womens’ section, and while it is a simple Victorian pub in many ways, it reminds me of growing up in London in the 90s (minus the cigarette smoke, but still with the dartboard).
What’s your biggest gripe about London?
With total unoriginality, I would say it is the ever-accelerating, eye-watering, vertigo-inducing cost of rent.
What’s your favourite building?
The Lloyd’s of London headquarters by Richard Rogers is quite spectacular; designed inside out, and almost resembling the Pompidou in its mechanical complexity. Right next to Lloyd’s is the majestic Leadenhall Market, under which are the remains of the Roman Londinium forum (the largest building north of the Alps for over three centuries).
On a completely different note, I am also a fan of the modestly-sized, but rich and complex, 15 Clerkenwell Close (above) by architect Amin Taha.
What’s your most hated building?
The GLA headquarters at New London. It is a glass bollock, surrounded by a wasteland of privatised paving.
What’s the best view in London?
For my money (£3 last time I went) it is at the top of the Monument.
What’s your personal London landmark?
In the late 1800s, the ancient London Bridge was torn down to make way for a new bridge, and its stone arches were installed in Victoria Park. (The 19th-century bridge that replaced it was in turn sold to an American in the 1970s and carted across the Atlantic to become an attraction, do Google it).
What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
I like London by Patrick Keiller – it is both very boring and monotonous and fascinating and intricate at the same time. This is how I feel about London.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Fish pie at J Sheekey’s.
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Doing loops of Hampstead Heath with intermittent tea breaks at Kenwood House and the Spaniard’s Inn.