Open House London: the capital’s iconic buildings open their doors for one weekend only

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  • Don’t miss the chance to nose around some of London’s most famous buildings

    This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of Open House London, the world’s largest festival of architecture. It’s a city-wide celebration of the capital city’s buildings, places and neighbourhoods. Every year hundreds of buildings open their doors to the public, completely for free, and each year a quarter of a million people leap at the opportunity to explore the best of London’s amazing architecture.

    This weekend, on the event’s silver anniversary, an impressive 800 buildings, walks, talks and tours will take place. From prestigious buildings such as 10 Downing Street and the Royal Albert Hall, to lesser-known places such as places of worship and windmills, there’s something for everyone to explore if you’re in the city.

    Read more: Five new buildings have been granted listed status, including a London cabbie’s shelter and a ‘hobbit house’

    Here are five highlights we’ve chosen from this year’s event:

    Battersea Power Station

    Open House london

    The iconic Power Station was built in two phases, the first half in the early 1930s and the second half in he early 1950s. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who is also known for designing the famous British red telephone box.

    At its peak, it supplied 20 per cent of London’s electricity. Battersea Power Station stopped generating electricity in 1983, and it is now well under way to becoming redeveloped as a mixture of homes, offices and retail space.

    In 2020 the Power Station building will open, with office space forming the London campus of Apple. One of the chimneys will contain a lift and viewing platform, there will be nearly as many retailers as the whole of Oxford Street, and to top it all off it will become a working power station once again.

    Senate House

    Open House London

    Designed by British architect Charles Holden, who is also credited with the design of many of London’s underground stations, this landmark Art Deco building is one of the only remaining buildings in London to boast original 1930s features.

    Senate House was created to house what became the world’s largest purpose-built University. During the Second World War it was home to the Ministry of Information, inspiring George Orwell’s description of the Ministry of Truth in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    Definitely one to investigate.

    Royal Albert Hall

    Open House London

    One of Britain’s most iconic buildings, the Royal Albert Hall, was built with approximately six million red bricks and eighty thousand blocks of decorative terracotta. An 800-foot-long terracotta frieze runs around the top of the exterior, made up of groups of figures engaged in artistic, scientific and other cultural activities.

    Inside, the heart of the Hall is the vast auditorium covered by a glazed dome. More than 370 music, sports and film events take place inside every year.

    It’s time to face the music and take a look around!

    The Gherkin

    Open House London

    Image credit: Grant Smith

    It’s hard to imagine that the London skyline was ever without our pickled friend. The 41-storey building wasn’t only constructed in this shape for aesthetic reasons, it was designed with sustainability in mind.

    Its shape, structure and spatial design reduce the building’s reliance on air conditioning and, together with other sustainable measures, means that it uses only half the energy consumed by a conventionally air-conditioned office tower.


    Read more: Step inside One Park Drive – London’s newest skyscraper from the architects behind the Tate Modern extension

    Red House

    Open House London

    Image credit: Elly Bagnall

    Less famous than the others in our list, but no less impressive, the Red House is the only house commissioned, created and lived in by William Morris. The Victorian building, built in original Arts and Crafts style, retains many of the decorative features applied by Morris including painted tiles and stained glass with Morris’ adopted motto ‘si je puis’.

    While William Morris himself did not decorate the home with his famous textiles and prints, the house has since been covered by Morris & Co textiles and wallpapers.

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