The emotion of architecture

As The Royal Exchange prepares to reopen, we take a look at the emotive and sentimental relationship we have with buildings

27 May, 2020

From the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, visiting iconic buildings features high on the list of most people’s travel itineraries when they are in a new place. There are many reasons for this fascination we have with architecture. It can be admired from multiple viewpoints – the design, the craftsmanship, the engineering – but it goes far beyond the physical, too. Buildings embody time, place, culture and human stories.

Every admired building has its own unique character and purpose. They can tell us things about the past and transport us into the future. Grand buildings in particular tend to inspire wonder, proudly marking their territory and sharing their beauty with locals and visitors alike. Whether it’s an ornately crafted heritage site or a modern feat of dynamic engineering, impressive architecture reminds us of the remarkable ability of mankind, to turn raw materials and an innovative mindset into a thing of beauty and awe.

Likewise, the buildings in our hometowns become familiar friends, woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Strangely, we can find ourselves missing these architectural characters when we go for a while without seeing them, and then feel a surge of excitement upon being reunited. Their presence comes to represent something consistent and reassuring.

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Pictured above: The Royal Exchange, as seen from the corner of Threadneedle street and Royal Exchange; Pictured top: Magnificent architectural details of The Royal Exchange’s central courtyard

Similar to the effect of spending time in the presence of an ancient tree, a grand old building – that we know has stood proudly for many years before our existence and is likely to still be there for many years after we’re gone – has the ability to evoke a sense of calm. This reminder of the small blip in time that we currently occupy can help us to access a wider perspective, shrinking our present worries and challenges and inviting us to step outside of ourselves for a moment to think of all that has come before and all that will come to pass.

The Royal Exchange has lived on through many challenges since it was first erected in 1566. It has burned down and been rebuilt twice, miraculously survived the Blitz bombings of the Second World War and been adapted to many different uses. But its character and essence has stood the test of time – created as a building for the people of London to use, admire and be proud of.

The Royal Exchange will be opening again soon. It’s a new chapter in everyone’s history and some things will have to be done a little differently, but The Royal Exchange will continue to provide Londoners with a sense of familiarity and reassurance as we navigate the new normal together. We look forward to welcoming you back.

The Royal Exchange will be reopening on 15 June. For information on the measures we have put in place in response to Covid-19, and how to plan your visit, please click here. To learn more about the history and architecture of The Royal Exchange, please visit our heritage page