Fresh Eyes

London

by Rebecca Dalzell

Marriott Hotels and VSCO, an online community for creators, asked a British photographer to share her perspective on London’s transformation into an innovative global city.

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London is the quintessential global city. Not long ago it was something of a dowager capital, known for meat pies and tea cozies. Today it’s a hub of fashion, contemporary art and rarified international restaurants, shot through with a distinct English sensibility. Despite a fast, modern pace, London remains rooted in history, with Victorian lampposts beside trendy boutiques. That heritage grounds London’s relentless drive forward.

Sophia Spring has witnessed London’s transformation firsthand. Born and raised in the city, the photographer has lived in many different neighborhoods and now works out of East London. Marriott Hotels and VSCO, an online community of creators, asked her to see London with fresh eyes and speak to the innovation happening on the ground. What follows are excerpts from our conversation with Spring.

When you walk around London, what you notice is the mix of old and new. In 30 minutes you pass every kind of building: one dating back hundreds of years next to skyscrapers and pockets of greenery. It’s very contrasting. On the Thames the Millennium Bridge is directly opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was built in the 1600s. Those two pieces of architecture are straddling four centuries.

The Thames is the heart of the city. It’s a calm expanse in the middle of chaos. By looking down the river, you can see the length of the city and its eclectic skyline, with iconic new buildings like the Shard.

The city is so diverse. From a café window you see every ethnicity walking by. It is economically mixed, as well. Expensive homes sit next to low-income public housing, which was often built where the city was bombed during World War II. That’s really rare in modern cities.

When I was a child there was no outdoor culture at all. No tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Then you started seeing outdoor cafés, which felt European. Along the South Bank, people now sit outside year-round. Tate Modern has outdoor installations. These spaces have become the focal points of neighborhoods.

English roses

East London, where I live, is like a city in itself.

It’s young, with an exciting food scene, street art and a lot of tech startups. They call Old Street “Silicon Roundabout,” which is funny because it’s incredibly ugly. There’s been an enormous amount of regeneration around Regent’s Canal, where formerly derelict buildings have been spruced up and there’s a nice walking path.

London has changed completely in the last 20 years. It’s become so vibrant and global. Incredible restaurants are popping up everywhere with locally sourced, sustainable food. Young chefs have realized that we can grow amazing produce in England. They’re cooking delicious, classic dishes with traditional ingredients like samphire. The wave of immigration over the last couple of decades has brought with it new cuisines, from Peruvian to Burmese. You used to only get Indian takeaway catering to a British palate, but now it’s stepped up, a sign that London is a wealthy, international city.

old houses in London

At Marriott Hotels, everything we do is guided by the principle that travel feeds the mind and inspires new perspectives. For the second year we have partnered with leading art and technology company VSCO to create a new digital visual series designed to inspire creativity, tapping into the VSCO global community to capture images and moving image stories of different people, lifestyles and cultures across the world.


London Marriott County Hall

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