It’s been almost 30 years since London’s Open House weekend first took place – a two-day celebration of the capital’s most awe-inspiring architecture which has become a highlight in the city’s design calendar. Since then, the festival has opened doors to over 800 buildings and attracted over 250,000 visitors to its programme of one-of-a-kind residences and landmarks.
This year, Open House London will be slightly different in format in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. Taking place from 19-20 September, there will be some buildings open for the public to visit in person like usual, but there will also be a series of online-only experiences, designed to give viewers a closer, safer look at these spaces. From imposing government buildings to unique architectural feats, these are the highlights of Open House 2020.
As well as being a world-class arts and cultural centre, the Barbican Centre is also one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture. The building, which is set in the Grade-II listed Barbican estate, will be open for special 30 minute tours over the weekend, letting visitors see secret spaces not usually open to the public. Tours are free, but pre-booking is required.
Open 19-20 September; Barbican Centre, Silk Street, City of London, EC2Y;
This monumental Art Deco building was originally built as a peace memorial for the thousands of Freemasons who died during the First World War. Today, it’s the home of the United Grand Lodge of England, welcoming more than 20,000 people each year. Take a look inside to discover the elaborate interiors, including mosaics, stained glass and decorated ceilings.
Open 19-20 September; Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Grand Queen Street, Covent Garden, WC2B;
Booking is required for this behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s most famous performance spaces, which will be opening its doors for the first time in six months. Entitled ‘Take a Bow’, the immersive experience will allow visitors to walk the boards of the Main Stage, before seeing a screening of performance highlights from the Royal Opera House’s archives.
Open 19-20 September; Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2E;
Beloved by the film industry and architectural historians alike, Trellick Tower is a Grade-II listed Brutalist masterpiece from architect Erno Goldfinger. Opened in 1972, the 31-storey tower block was built as part of a social housing scheme in Kensal Town, and has since become iconic. This Sunday, it’s open for tours every half hour of up to six people, but booking is required.
Open to tours on 20 September;
This playful four-bed family house in Kew Garden’s Conservation Area has been part of every Open House weekend since 2014, but for 2020, it’ll be shown online with a few new surprises. Set around a courtyard and comprising two gabled Corten steel buildings, this house is some of architecture practice Piercy & Company’s finest work.
10 Cambridge Road, Kew, TW9;
Open both days to those with pre-booked tickets, Two Temple Place’s beautiful interiors were previously the London Estate Office of American businessman, politician and philanthropist, William Waldorf Astor, the first Viscount Astor. Finished in 1895, the building looks out across the River Thames and offers a stunning example of the workmanship from the late Victorian period.
19-20 September; 2 Temple Place, Westminster, WC25;
Tune in on Saturday to see this 1960s time-capsule of a house brought to life via film. Set in a quiet cul-de-sac in Kingston Hill, Picker House’s modern split-level design was originally chosen so that the owner (businessman and patron of the arts Stanley Herbert Picker) could display his huge collection of sculptures and paintings. When he died, he left the house in trust, resulting it in remaining in its original preserved state today.
Film will be streaming at 9am 19 September;
You’ll want to visit this historic building for the Neo-Gothic architecture alone, but inside, there are plenty of fascinating spaces to see. As well as the commanding courtroom, visitors will also be able to take in the rarely-seen Lawyer’s Suite and triple height library, which are normally closed to the public.
Open 19-20 September; UK Supreme Court, Parliament Square, Westminster, SW1P;
An ‘alternative’ open house, this digital tour lets virtual visitors explore this Grade-II listed heritage building in the heart of Westminster. Currently occupied by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, this tour will take you through recent renovations, which opened up the previously cell-like offices and breathed new life into the unused courtyard.
Online only; openhouselondon.open-city.org.uk
Arguably the perfect definition of a ‘hidden gem’, this beautiful jewel of a nineteenth-century church was once the chapel of the former Middlesex Hospital, but was never actually consecrated. Today, its ornate Byzantine interiors are used for events and exhibitions, but it’s also a lovely place to simply sit and reflect.
Open 20 September; Fitzrovia Chapel, 2 Pearson Square, Fitzroy Place, W1T;
This majestic Hindu temple in Neasden has a unique architecture combining influences from both the East and the West – while the structure is made from Western steel and concrete work, the aesthetic finish uses Eastern concepts, like a timber portico and Haveli work. For Open House, there’ll be a film tour showing the temple’s beautiful interiors, including its five ornate shrines housing scared deities.
Film will be streaming at 9am 19 September;