Open House is an ever-growing architecture festival that goes under the same name but on various dates in more than 30 cities of Europe and the world. However Open House London was the first of its kind and is still a flagship location. It sails off onto its 23rd two-day journey on the weekend of the 19th and 20th of September.
There are about 800 locations to choose from across all London boroughs, including my favourite Outer ones. You can browse all the locations on their website or in the pre-ordered brochures.
There is a strong emphasis on the sustainable architecture. Open House features a lot of unique, unusually organised and redeveloped buildings. Sometimes there is an architect or a designer on the site to answer visitor’s questions.
However open House is also a showcase of London communities. How do our neighbours live? How the life is organised inside the gated developments? This festival gives a chance to get to know the context of the city and include the story of these communities into your own narrative of the capital. Two years ago I visited a gated narrowboat marina at Haggerston basin and saw how people live there. I was so impressed that have told about it to every single of my London guests since.
Out of hundreds of locations opened 19 to 20th September, everyone can find something that will catch their eye. The site navigation allows you to choose developments based on the type of usage, location, features and more.
It is easy to get confused and lost in the sheer number of possibilities, so here are a few tips to narrow your search down:
1. Do not spend your time in the developments that are normally opened to general public anyway throughout the year. These include libraries, municipal buildings, houses of worship and so on. These clever guys use Open House for additional exposure to keen London audience, but really you can easily find another day to visit it. In the brochure those are marked by a letter N (stands for “normally opened”) and on the website it is possible to untick the “Open to the Public most days free of charge” option.
2. Choose the places according to your interests. My specific interest are railways, so I will try to get to Crossrail site at Pudding Mill Lane, but one of my friends specialises on shopping centre architecture so she can check out tours at Designer Outlet in Wembley. Out of around 8000 places there definitely will be those that will fit your interests.
3. If perchance you do not have such specific interest in any of the architectural aspects, it will be more fun to go to the places with a human aspect to it. Particularly, somewhere you can get an insight of how a certain community lives and not just some fancy redeveloped house which can be quite repetitive.
4. Unless you have dreamed all your life to get into Gherkin or some other fancy building in the City which is normally closed to general public, do not waste your time in multi-hour long queues to get there. As a result you might be disappointed in what you see above and will spend your time inefficiently. Perhaps unticking “Long Queues likely” box on the website when planning your weekend is a good strategy to better use the time available.
Enjoy your weekend!