I’ve been a huge fan of Open House London for many years – what’s not to love about the opportunity to look round the inside of some of London’s iconic buildings, both ancient and modern, famous and comparatively unknown and all for free! However the weekend has become so popular that patience and a willingness to queue have become essential qualities for anyone participating, and many of the most desirable architectural opportunities, those which have to be booked in advance, have not been accessible.
This year Open House is the weekend of 22nd/23rd September, and the web site opened for bookings last week …. and promptly crashed, presumably due to the number of people trying to book. As a result of irresolvable “technical difficulties” the organisers have changed their method of allocating places at the bookable events from first-come-first-served to a ballot system, whereby there will be a random draw from the names of everyone who has registered their interest before the end of Wednesday 29th August. We can register our interest on the Open House London 2012 web site.
The bookable buildings and events include some amazing opportunities; for example the Institute of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) Engineering East London boat tour described here last year, and the ICE Tour of the Emirates Airline Cable Car (more usually known as the Arabfly Dangleway). The booking web site describes these:
Engineering East London: ICE Boat tour to the Hoo Peninsula – max 2 per application only for this event. Ballot that opened for this last week still stands email@example.com
Sun 11am North Greenwich Pier (the O2), Peninsula Square SE10 0PE
Duration 5 hours. On board bar with light refreshments and sandwiches. Max 80 on tour. D R T E
Discover how engineers are shaping east London on a Thames Clipper river tour from the 02 to the Hoo Peninsula and back again, with live commentary from London’s leading engineers and regeneration experts discussing landmarks including the Thames Barrier, London Gateway and the proposed Thames Estuary Airport.
Tube: North Greenwich; 129,161,188,422,472,486
ICE tour of Emirates Air Line cable car firstname.lastname@example.org
Sat 10am, 11am, 12noon. Meet: outside North Greenwich tube station, 5 Millennium Way, SE10 0PH. Part of tour will be outside, bring rainwear. Max 18 per tour. Duration 1 hour. D E
The tour will explore the civil engineering achievements of the construction of the cable car and the regeneration of the Royal Docks. Led by the Emirates Air Line project director and ICE regeneration and sustainability expert. Organised by ICE. 2012.
Tube: North Greenwich
Other bookable tours include the Arsenal Emirates Stadium, the Canary Wharf Crossrail Station Construction Site, the Heron Tower in the City of London and the Shri Sanatan Hindu Mandir in Wembley. Something for everyone, so get booking now!
Most of the Open House buildings and events don’t have to be booked in advance. All of them, and there are more than 750, are listed in the Open House London 2012 Guide, which is available at the moment free from Woolwich Library, while stocks last, or for £6.50 from the Open House web shop, and they can be searched for online. Amongst the local buildings open are the Royal Artillery Barracks, the ruins of the Garrison Church of St George and its Marvellous Mosaics, the Tudor Barn and Woolwich Town Hall, though some are open on the Saturday only. Severndroog Castle won’t be open, but there will be talks on the hour between 10am and 3pm about the history of the building and progress on the restoration plans.
Slightly further afield, one of my favourites from a previous Open House Weekend is the Crossness Engine House with its stunning brightly coloured iron work and working beam engine. There was quite a long queue to get in – but it was well worth the wait. In central London there are far too many favourites to list them all, but I’ll never forget the imposing imperial murals and marble work of the Foreign Office and India Office, the living history of Westminster Hall and the money-perfumed Bank of England. However I still haven’t made it into the Gherkin – the queues have always been just too long.
I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the all the Open London architecture so far, with luck there’s years more exploring to do.