Lon­don Un­cover the city’s se­crets

Look be­hind closed doors next week­end

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page - open­house­lon­don.open-city.org.uk

Ever fan­cied pos­ing at 10 Down­ing Street, nos­ing around New Scot­land Yard or propos­ing at the top of the Shard? Next week­end is your chance. On Sept 16 and 17, more than 800 build­ings and places across the cap­i­tal will open to the pub­lic for free as part of Open House. Now in its 25th year, the event will be bigger than ever as, for the first time, all Lon­don bor­oughs are par­tic­i­pat­ing.

“The found­ing mis­sion was to give peo­ple ac­cess to Lon­don’s best build­ings, which are nor­mally off lim­its, in or­der to foster an in­ter­est in ar­chi­tec­ture. Ul­ti­mately, Lon­don­ers would be as com­fort­able talk­ing about ar­chi­tec­ture as they are talk­ing about books, art and mu­sic,” says Rory Ol­cayto, di­rec­tor of Open City, the or­gan­is­ing char­ity. “Over the years it has grown into a huge an­nual event in the cul­tural cal­en­dar.”

The se­crets of the city that will be re­vealed to the pub­lic for the first time this year in­clude the Willes­den United Syn­a­gogue Ceme­tery, es­tab­lished in 1873 and re­cently awarded Grade II listed sta­tus from His­toric Eng­land; the gov­er­nor’s house at HMP Worm­wood Scrubs,crubs, which now houses prison n arts char­ity The Koestler Trust; t; and One Black­fri­ars, thehe new 52-storey sky­scraper in Bank­side, nick­named The he Vase. There are also ex­tra guided­ded walks on this year’s pro­gramme, mme, in­clud­ing sto­ries of “Meat, at, Mur­der and May­hem” in Cale­do­nian Park and a tour ur of David Bowie’s Beck­en­ham en­ham called “In Ziggy’s gy’s Foot­steps”.

Th­ese places es join old favourites, , such as the BT Tower, , the Gherkin, Wil­liam iam Mor­ris’s Red House in Bex­ley­heath, the art deco Phoenix Cin­ema in East Finch­ley and the vaulted crypts s of Crys­tal Palace Sub­way.y. It’s a far cry from the 20 build­ings in four bor­oughs that par­tic­i­pated in Lon­don’s first Open House in 1992. It was the brain­child of Vic­to­ria Thorn­ton, the ar­chi­tect who ran the pro­ject un­til Ol­cayto, the for­mer editor of The Ar­chi­tects’ Jour­nal, took over last year. “The only pub­lic de­bate at the time was around her­itage, de­spite the great con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture in the cap­i­tal,” says Thorn­ton. “I re­alised that, for a pub­lic dis­cus­siondiscu about the city, ev­ery­one need­edne to ex­pe­ri­ence it first hand.”ha She took in­spi­ra­tion from La Journée Portes Ou­vertes (the day of the open doors) held in FranceF from the mid-Eight­ies, whenw im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal­hist mon­u­ments anda civic build­ings werewe opened to the pub­lic. Th­e­seT Her­itage Days soon spreadsp across Europe, ar­rivin­garri in Glas­gow wh when it was Euro­pean Ci­tyC of Cul­ture in 1990. Bu But it wasn’t easy to bring­brin the idea to the cap­i­tal. “Thorn­ton“Thornto was frus­trated at th the lack of mo­men­tum in Lon­don to do some­thing sim­i­lar­sim – there was no may­oral­ty­mayo then and it was tricky to make a panLon­don event,” Ol­cayto says. “So she went to the in­di­vid­ual bor­oughs. She just did it her­self.”

In 1994, English Her­itage fol­lowed suit by launch­ing its na­tion­wide pro­gramme Her­itage Open Days, but Open House has kept its clutch on Lon­don. Last year, more than 250,000 peo­ple made 400,000 vis­its dur­ing the week­end. Ol­cayto ex­pects this year’s event to be just as well at­tended, and says that even though the pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of ar­chi­tec­ture to­day is con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than it was when Open House started, the event still has a vi­tal mis­sion. “The idea that the city be­longs to the peo­ple is im­por­tant, es­pe­cially now – it’s the op­po­site of the creep­ing cul­ture of the pri­vati­sa­tion of pub­lic space,” he says. “It’s an im­por­tant con­cept that the streets you walk on be­long to you.”

Open City asked sub­scribers of its newslet­ter to vote for their favourite Open House build­ing. The top 25 have been in­cluded in this year’s pro­gramme, each with a quote from a re­spon­dent that best de­scribes a Lon­doner’s re­la­tion­ship with the build­ing. Although the Gherkin came in first place, usurp­ing St Paul’s Cathe­dral as the most iconic sil­hou­ette on the Lon­don sky­line, Sir Christo­pher Wren’s mas­ter­piece was de­scribed as “the jewel in Lon­don’s crown”. The Shard, in fourth place, is “a marker to ori­ent your­self ”, while the Royal Fes­ti­val Hall, in 10th place, is “truly Lon­don’s liv­ing room”. In 12th place, serv­ing as a re­minder of “an older time and a dif­fer­ent type of work­force”, is Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion, which is also open­ing its doors next week­end. When it par­tic­i­pated in Open House in 2013, 40,000 peo­ple vis­ited the site.

“Lon­don is fas­ci­nat­ing. It’s a ta­pes­try of styles, with so many lay­ers and ages of build­ings. You can go from the Ro­man bath­houses to the Cheeseg­rater in the space of a square mile – it’s quite an in­cred­i­ble story,” says Ol­cayto. “There’s an un­der­stand­ing that Lon­don is not a beau­ti­ful city in the way that Florence or Rome is, but it has this awe­some power.” The city is per­haps best summed up by the voter’s quote about the Trel­lick Tower, Ernő Goldfin­ger’s block of flats in Ken­sal Town, which ranked 24th (ahead of the more clas­si­cally beau­ti­ful Royal Courts of Jus­tice): it is “bru­tal but classy, just like Lon­don”.

Look closer: some of the build­ings that make up Lon­don’s sky­line, left, and the Crys­tal Palace Sub­way, right, will be among the sights open to the pub­lic

Star power: Trel­lick Tower, top; the Francis Crick In­sti­tute, above; David Bowie, left

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