Open House London weekend celebrates the capital's design and architectural history

By Ruth Hazard | 20 September 2012
The Open House London weekend event will offer visitors free admission to buildings across the city such as The Granary at King's Cross© John Sturrock
Festival Preview: Open House London, various venues, London, 22-23 September 2012

Trying to negotiate the chaos of London's city streets means it’s not often we find time to appreciate the array of incredible buildings, places and spaces permeating the capital.

This weekend, Open House London returns with its annual smattering of events, hoping to inspire capital dwellers and visitors to discover the city’s amazing history of architecture and design.

More than 750 buildings will offer free admission to the public during the course of the weekend. The 48-hour programme is also set to include neighbourhood walks, night-time openings and expert talks.

Events will focus on the changing design of London homes, the impact climate change has had on the city and the role architects have played in revitalising the capital.

Go behind the counter at the Bank of England, plumb the depths of Victorian sewage works, nose around in ordinary people's homes, take a tour of the Beefeater Gin distillery – this is a chance to discover some of the city’s hidden architectural treasures.

Our top five picks for the weekend:

120 Fleet Street


The dazzling foyer of the ex Daily Express building has been restored to its 1930s splendour, providing the best British example of the Art Deco style.

Described at its opening as "Britain’s most modern building for Britain’s most modern newspaper", Sir Owen Williams’s Grade II* listed Daily Express Building was Fleet Street’s most glamorous landmark for nearly 60 years.

18 Stafford Terrace - The Sambourne Family Home

Stafford Terrace was once home to Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, who occupied the four-storey townhouse during the 1870s alongside his small family and live-in servants.

Today, the building is recognised as the best-surviving example of a late Victorian middle-class home in all of the UK. Careful preservation of the property means it still features the original interior decoration and contents.

The Gherkin is just one of the London landmarks taking part in Open House London© Grant Smith/VIEW Pictures
30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin)
 
The curvilinear 40-storey office building is indicitative of the city's modern architectural style.

Its sleek tapering design is not just distinctive: it actually minimises the construction's carbon footprint, making it London’s first ecological tall building. A glazed dome on the top floor also provides spectacular 360-degree views across the city.

Banqueting House

This regal building, originally part of Whitehall Palace, inspired a transformation of English architecture with its pioneering use of the neo-classical style.

Completed in 1622 at a cost of £15,618, 27, the ceiling paintings are the work of Flemish Baroque artist, Peter-Paul Rubens. It is also the site where King Charles I was executed.

Shri Sanatan Hindu Mandir


Amassing 2.4 acres of land, built from Jaisalmer and Bansipahadpur limestone hand-carved in India and shipped to London for assembly by expert craftsmen, this is a seriously impressive construction.
 
The temple’s design was based on ancient Hindu Scripture guidance on how to form a perfect structural masterpiece.

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More pictures:

See inside the Shri Sanatan Hindu Mandir this weekend© Shri Sanatan Hindu Mandir

John Nash's Sundridge Park Manor House will be offering free admission as part of the event© Sundridge Park
Many London residents are also opening their homes to the public during the weekend© Rogan MacDonald

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