Each September, the world’s leading architecture festival Open House London takes place and 2019’s version is coming in hot from 21-22 September. The official programme only comes out in mid-August, but this little outline and sneak peek of the available opportunities in some of London’s best tourism areas will have you scrambling for a discount hotel in London for this weekend of history, cultural significance and architecture.
Let’s start with some history…
London’s first Open House was founded by Victoria Thornton, who is the founder of Open House Global and a passionate advocate of architectural recognition. She founded it back in 1992 and the vision of the festival has only gained more support as the years have passed. She has managed to create a space in which the general public can, free of charge, explore and admire the city in a way they don’t usually have the opportunity to do. You can use this sneak peek of the featured buildings as a way of getting yourself prepared for what is in store for you.
B-line for the Piccadilly Hotel over this festival time, because the area is full of buildings worth visiting and will only be a short walk from where you are staying. For instance, you can explore Lancaster House in St James’s, impressively decorated government offices. Another related stop, just down the road from Picadilly Circus, below St James’ Park, you will find one of Open House London’s most popular spots to visit, 10 Downing Street, where the UK’s prime minister resides. There are plenty of restaurants near Piccadilly, so you can intersperse your political tour with some hearty British pub food.
If you have ever had a massage in the West End, eaten at one of the many restaurants, or visited a theatre to watch a play, you will know that the area is eclectic and that the buildings are architecturally critical to the charm of the area. Bloomsbury is one of the outposts of the West End but packs a punch when it comes to architectural significance. For instance, Senate House. When it was opened in 1936 as the University of London’s administrative HQ, it was the tallest secular building in London. But if it is the theatrical element of the West End that you love, you will be interested in heading to Covent Garden, one of the West End’s most popular areas, to visit the London Coliseum – London’s largest theatre with a capacity of 2359 people.
City of London
City of London is known as the city’s financial district but is far more culturally dense than that. When doing Open House London, you will be able to access buildings such as the Barbican Center, which is one of London’s most impressive spaces for arts and culture. If your focus is more on religious buildings or landmark city features, then head straight to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Considering Westminster is home to Buckingham Palace and New Scotland Yard, you can expect to find many buildings included in Open House in this area. Portcullis House, the office buildings of UK parliament, have announced that they are opening their doors to 2019’s Open House London. There are a number of things you can learn here. First, there will be an opportunity to uncover the process involved in restoring the Palace of Westminster so that its heritage is protected for years to come. Second, there will be members of the team restoring Big Ben there to explain the process that is underway in relation to the history of Britain’s most well-loved clock tower. Third, Hopkins Architects will discuss Portcullis House in the context of being one of the newest additions to the Parliamentary Estate. Fourth, the House of Commons portrait collection will be available for viewing. Fifth and finally, there will be an event where children can make food-based architecture to take home.
South West London
Venturing along the district line towards South West London is a great idea during Open House weekend, as there are numerous exciting buildings to explore as you start leaving Central London. Kew, known for its gardens, is also home to the National Archives, which was recently moved from Chancery Lane. While exploring this historically significant library of the world’s most important documents, you will learn the value documentation has had over the years and see previously top-secret documents from history. Alternatively, the South West is also home to Wimbledon. Best known for its tennis, the area is also home to Buddhapadipa Temple. It doesn’t get quirkier than visiting one of the only two Thai-style Theravada temples outside of Asia!
Considering Greenwich is the home of the Royal Observatory and basically the source of our modern concept of time, it should be on your list of areas to explore once the final programme is out for Open House. But there are some things you can be guaranteed to see. There is the award-winning Greenwich Reach Swing Bridge, which is an incredible architectural feat for both pedestrians and passing boats and ships. Exquisitely designed and beautiful to look at, this is a highlight of the area.
The east of London gets busier, quirkier and better every day. What is particularly interesting about the architecture here is the intention behind it. Whilst cathedrals were being erected in Central London, the east was busy compensating for the high population numbers and absorbing the expansion of London’s industry. So often the buildings were utilitarian. But as London grows, so does the trendiness of the east and it has become synonymous with culture, art and inclusivity. Turning Earth E10 in Leyton is a creative hub for potters and those with an interest in the craft – sits within the Argall Avenue estate, which is an industrial village. So a creative hub within it is refreshing and interesting to explore. Otherwise, close to the river in Wapping is the Thames River Police, which is a small museum dedicated to London’s law enforcers of the river.
So, there you have it – some sneak previews of the events to come. Rest assured that the list is going to be far longer when it is released, with over 800 buildings opening up their doors to the public for free. Start plotting now which of these areas you are most interested in exploring, and that may help you whittle down where to go once the seemingly-never-ending list is published.