London has an amazing mixture of great buildings. We have jewels such as the Tower of London and – some would argue – the Thames Barrier and less exalted but nonetheless entrancing structures such as the Dr Johnson’s House and Brockwell Lido. What strikes the observer is how diverse in age, size, style and context these constructions really are. In only few streets, you can encounter buildings from Roman to the modern day but often they are in private hands and not available for viewing other than as a pedestrian from outside.
That last all changes on Open House weekend each September. Eight hundred buildings across the capital are thrown open for free to the public on 20-21 September and you can gain access to some exceptional places normally kept for only the very few. The idea of Open House has the objective of giving the visiting public a hands-on experience of architecture and from that to gain a better grasp of the extraordinary work our designers, architects and surveyors achieve each day. The value of the Open House weekend is that we can all see our city in a new light through new experience and changed perception.
SE16 features prominently amongst the litany of buildings opening their doors for the weekend. Amongst our local highlights are
- Canada Water Library – a civic centrepiece for the regeneration of the area around Canada Water
- Brunel Museum – housed in the Brunel Engine House that was designed by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel
- The Exchange – Bermondsey Spa Gardens – a new mixed-tenure housing development designed as an urban village
- Dilston Grove – a former Clare College mission church, now contemporary art gallery and recently renovated
- Sands Film Studios and Rotherhithe Picture Research Library – Grade II listed riparian granary built with reclaimed timbers felled in 1700s
- The Old Mortuary – erected in 1895 and situated in the Rotherhithe Conservation area, retains many original features
These and hundred of other buildings open their doors over Saturday and Sunday. Each venue has set out its offering in the Guide which is available free in our libraries and for a charge by post from the organisers. The same information is shown online on their site at www.londonopenhouse.org. Some are open only at specified hours whilst others offer guided tours at particular hours. The special places such as No 10 have already been snapped up by entering a ballot. Many though are open on a drop in basis but that might be for limited hours each day or only on one of the two. Take a good look at the Guide to be sure of your visit.
The London Open House can be found at www.londonopenhouse.org and the weekend this year is 20-21 September.