Layers of London | Layers of London

Unexpected Treasures in London archives


Posted by Rebecca Read, Layers of London Administrator

One of the rewarding parts of working on the Layers of London project so far has been having the opportunity to visit archives and libraries around London particularly those that may not be so well known.

Arup is the internationally renowned architecture and civil engineering firm responsible for such iconic structures as the Sydney Opera House and, the last project that Ove Arup designed himself, Kingsgate Bridge in Durham. Closer to home, Arup were the civil and structural engineers responsible for building Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s Barbican Estate in the 1960s and 70s in the City of London.

Arup’s photo library covers the entire history of the firm and Daniel Imade, Senior Photo Librarian, made us welcome in their Fitzroy Street headquarters to talk to us about the collection and show us some of the images of projects across London. Concentrating on our pilot phase in Barking and Dagenham, we found some fascinating civil engineering projects and architects’ photographs of schools and hospitals in the borough.

Borough archives often have collections that deserve a wider audience for what they can tell us about London and the lives of Londoners. When we visited Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives earlier this month we stayed to look at the photographic exhibition, “Brick Lane Born Exhibition: Some photos by Raju Vaidyanathan, 1983-1989”

It is a series of extraordinary images capturing a teenager’s view of life in the East End. Whilst the photographs themselves evoke the huge social and political changes of the 1980s, it was the photographer’s idiosyncratic captions that make the exhibition so compelling. Raju Vaidyanathan is still living in Brick Lane and documents the changes he has seen in a very personal way and vivid way.

The exhibition is on until 7 January.

Our aim is that Layers of London can provide a place to bring together these kind of fascinating and disparate collections to build a history of the city that includes everyone.

As Ove Arup is quoted on the company website “…our lives are inextricably mixed up with those of our fellow human beings, and that there can be no real happiness in isolation…” Ove Arup, 1970.


  1. Raju Vaidyanathan

    Thanks for the write up of my exhibition. The photos are on display now at 2 Idea Stores (Whitechapel and Watney Market) till end of march and then Caary Wharf Idea Store from the start of April. I am at Watney market if anyone wants to see or talk more about the photos and collection. Thanks once again.


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