THE PROPERTIES INVOLVED IN OPEN HOUSE LONDON 2018
London has no shortage of headline-grabbing buildings, but what of the intriguing properties that are not usually open to the public. For 25 years, there has been one weekend in September when visitors to the capital can step behind the doors that usually remain firmly shut.
Open House 2018 is nearly upon us once again, when more than 800 properties will unveil their secrets. From private houses to historic institutions, this is the opportunity to see another side of London. Where will you explore, between 22 and 23 September?
Some of the venues require visitors to book in advance, while others welcome drop-ins, so it’s worth consulting the website ahead of time. Organisers have also indicated the properties they expect to be busy, so be sure to arrive early if queues are likely.
1 FINSBURY CIRCUS
Finsbury Circus may be the largest open public space within the historic boundaries of The City of London, but it is rare to get a glimpse inside the properties that make up the majestic arc along one side. Designed by renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, 1 Finsbury Circus is Grade II-listed and has a stylish interior as impressive as its imposing façade. The building’s highlight is undoubtedly the glazed atrium roof.
Visit the venue between 10:00 and 13:30 on Saturday 22 or from 10:00 to 12:30 on Sunday 23.
LA SCUOLA ITALIANA A LONDRA
A fairly unassuming residential property at 156 Holland Park Road has undergone a remarkable transformation to make it fit for purpose in its modern use. Originally built as bedsits by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, this part of Kensington now houses a bilingual Italian and English nursery and primary school. Architecture firm JT Lab has installed a glazed walkway across the courtyard to connect sections of the school.
The school will be open to the public between 13:00 and 17:00 on 22 and 23 September, with architect-led tours at 15:00 each day.
ABBEY MILLS PUMPING STATION
It is hard to believe, this incredibly decorative building was created to process waste water, but in the mid-19th century even the most functional infrastructure was constructed to look beautiful. So beautiful are the tiles, columns and brickwork that Abbey Mills Pumping Station has been described as a cathedral of sewerage. The brainchild of Joseph Bazalgette, Edmund Cooper and Charles Driver, it was an integral part of a new system at the time to clean up London.
Abbey Mills is located out towards the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, but is well worth the journey. Be sure to book a ticket in advance for one of the hour-long tours between 10:00 and 16:00 throughout the weekend.
If you are in need of some inspiration to help turn your home into an energy-neutral passive house, then look no further than 211 Du Cane Road. The owner redesigned his early 20th-century property into an energy-efficient building in 2012 and is opening it up to show others how it was done. It features PV solar, a heat pump, LED filament lighting and energy-efficient appliances.
Pre-booking is essential to visit the Eco Home. It will be open from 14:00 to 16:00 on the Saturday and 15:00 to 17:00 on the Sunday.
FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE
Step inside the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to see the richly decorated interiors of one of the most interesting government departments. The grade I-listed property on King Charles Street was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and Matthew Digby Wayatt, and was built in 1861. It includes the sumptuous Durbar Court, Locarno Suite and a particularly impressive grand staircase. Today, the historic buildings are still used by government staff on a daily basis, while ceremonial occasions are also held here.
Plan your trip for any time between 10:00 and 17:00 on 22 or 23 September.
MIDDLE TEMPLE HALL
Transport yourself back to 1562 at the best-preserved Elizabethan hall anywhere in London. It is complete with a double hammer beam roof that was carved by the Queen’s own carpenters from oak grown in Windsor Forest. The oil paintings of various royals that adorn the walls have quality pedigree and the decorative windows memorialise the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Duke of Windsor. Literature fans will be excited to know that the first known performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night took place in the hall in 1602 and it is thought that the playwright himself was present.
The hall will only be open between 13:00 and 17:00 on 23 September, so be sure to plan your visit carefully if this is on your list of must-see venues.
Photo credit: ilbusca via iStock