Leave a comment

Open House 2018: Enter London’s Most Desirable Buildings

Social housing: Kensal House estate’s modernist community rooms is a Grade II* listed community centre in London’s deprived North Kensington just 10 minutes from Grenfell Tower

Open House 2018 promises another weekend of thrills and visual feast for all lovers of great architecture, interiors, culture and history  across the capital. After 2017’s record breaking 25th edition, the festival returns again this September with every London borough participating.

A truly citywide celebration of London’s buildings, places and spaces, the event offers a unique opportunity to explore and learn about the city’s most compelling architecture and design over two days [perhaps it should be a week-long jamboree]. The complementary free app is an ideal tool to zoom in on nearby buildings, plan your itineraries and shortlist favourites to explore later.

Seat of power: 10 Downing Street’s resident cat, Larry, wears a Union Jack bow tie as he’s photographed in the Cabinet Room at the PM’s official London residence, London April 28, 2011 | Ben Stansall/Pool

More than 800 buildings of all architectural periods — from Georgian, Victorian, Modernist to Contemporary — will open their doors from 22 to 23 September, alongside a programme of neighbourhood walks and architect-led tours – all for free.

This year’s programme explores how the new London that has been emerging the past 20 years is finally coming to fruition. New buildings, new districts, new approaches to regeneration, women taking a leading role in making London, engineering excellence underpinning the capital’s successful reinvention – these all show how good design can make London a more enjoyable and vibrant city in which to live and work.

Our critics’ top recommendations;


Postwar icon: Trellick Tower, a new tower block of flats, designed by Erno Goldfinger and built in Golborne Road, west London

Ernö Goldfinger’s brutalist masterpiece on Notting Hill’s Golborne Road is London’s most iconic Modernist apartment block. An Open House favourite with slots filled within hours of bookings opening. Few people know the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s most notorious criminal was the visionary architect whose dream of utopia gave us Trellick Tower, a building that went from almost being torn down to gaining its status as Grade II listed and one of London’s most striking icons.

Modernist Icon

Begun in the late 1960s, towards the end of the vogue for high-rise social housing, it was conceived by its architect along principles that approached the utopian. A disciple of the Modernist architects Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret, Goldfinger (whose name Ian Fleming uncharitably stole after a dispute over the destruction of some Victorian housing) passionately believed in the Corbusian concept of streets in the sky, the idea that the social interactions of ground-level communities could be transferred into space-saving vertical formations. His buildings aimed to accommodate large numbers of people without loss of amenity.

By the time that the Trellick was built though, public opinion was beginning to turn against the postwar towers. It became known in the media as the Tower of Terror.
In 1983, after years as an acknowledged trouble-spot, the Royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea council installed a concierge at the bottom of the Trellick and the slow recovery of its reputation began.

Today, in a Britain where nearly 40,000 people belong to the Brutalism Appreciation Society and tours of the Trellick are over-subscribed, the intricacies of Goldfinger’s vision are once again appreciated.

Popular Culture

Its concrete facade, an icon of Brutalist style, has appeared in music videos for Blur, Tricky and Depeche Mode. Thinly disguised as Windsor House, “the lone tower block at the end of Golborne Road”, it is where the darts-playing, wife-beating criminal Keith Talent lives in Martin Amis’s novel London Fields (1989). Most famously, perhaps, it was the inspiration for High-Rise, the 1975 novel by JG Ballard whose film adaptation, directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Tom Hiddleston, came out in 2016. — (Source: Open House London)


Over 100 must-see private residential homes include Michaelis Boyd Architects’ Round House in Brook Green, Office S&M’s Valetta House (above), Tin House in Shepherds Bush designed by Henning Stummel Architects and Holland Park House is a modernist gem in Holland Park for fans of mid-century influences. Go beyond the keyhole to inspect those homes you’ve always wondered what lurked behind closed doors.


“You can’t miss it, it is that dirty-brown building over there,” a city worker points towards the latest addition to London’s ever burgeoning skyscape. Perhaps, even its financier American billionaire won’t bristle over the description of his £2bn European HQ. And closer to the truth, a lot of mud and brown earth was excavated during construction works to reveal the ruins of Mithras’ temple.

Bloomberg’s European headquarters is the world’s most sustainable office building. Home to the financial technology and information company’s 4,000 London-based employees, its unique design promotes collaboration and innovation and was designed by architects Fosters+Partners in 2017. Tours will not include the London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE but visitors will be encouraged to visit afterwards.

Other Highlights:

Must see: Perennial favourites include the BT Tower (above), the Shard and the Gherkin | C1-Photography

  • London’s greatest estate: a programme for OPDC uncovering the hidden narrative of Old Oak and Park Royal in west London, one of the country’s most important industrial areas to be regenerated. Includes open factories, family and creative activities, and a bespoke mapguide to the area.
  • New London districts at Wembley Park, Hackney Wick with Here East and BUJ Wickside, and Barking Riverside
  • Major new landmarks US Embassy, the Royal Opera House renovation, Design Museum in Kensington and Lamda’s new premises for dramatic arts education in Hammersmith are all worthy of a visit.
  • A collection of housing exemplars then and now including developments High Path by Clarion HG, Peabody’s Thamesmead Estate, and Kensal House Estate (top picture).
  • A ‘year of engineering’ celebration of the secret city makers, including a showcase of work by engineers to the starchitects AKT II [Living Unit Installation and AKT II studios in White Collar Factory], plus civil engineering at the HS2 viewing platform in Park Royal, Whitechapel Crossrail tours, and energy and recycling plants.
  • New ways of looking at buildings through an understanding of 15 key component ‘elements’ – a staircase, a lift, a loo etc. A collection of Foster & Partners building elements on the app gives a playful way to explore the city, and tapping into social media via an Instagram channel @openhouselondon with tags #OHL18 #OHphotocomp focusing on elements across the programme
  • Highlighting leading women across all boroughs who have played a part in shaping London today.
  • Perennial favourites include; Waiting Rooms at Peckham Rye Station, 10 Downing Street, BT Tower, the Shard and the Gherkin.
  • RIBA award winners Belvue School Woodland Classrooms, Hackney Town Hall and No.1 New Oxford Street, the new COS HQ.
  • Open House Families will return once again with activities for ages from 0 – 13 yrs in City Hall

Rory Olcayto, Open City’s director commented: “From Hackney Wick to Park Royal, Wembley to Nine Elms and the ever-changing Kings Cross, Open House is shining a light on the places shaping the capital with striking landmark buildings and new approaches to town planning. The cubic futurism of the American Embassy, Here East’s Day-glo ‘fun palace’ and the cool, sculptural qualities of the Aga Khan’s HQ are real stand-outs this year.”

History & Facts

  • The first Open House London weekend took place in 1992 with just four boroughs taking part
  • Open House was founded by architect Victoria Thornton OBE HonFRIBA
  • Over 250,000 people attend Open House each year
  • In 2018 there are over 800 buildings, tours, walks and places open free to the public over the weekend across all London boroughs
  • Open House London weekend 2018 takes place between 22 – 23 September

Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Be the first to comment