It’s hard work running a city – especially one that leads the world in culture, heritage and population growth, like London. The increasing demand for housing in the capital has put more pressure than ever on our open spaces and buildings. The pace of urban change is fast and cities need creative solutions to stay efficient, sustainable and desirable.
The Open House London festival is organised by architecture charity Open-City, and it gives the public the chance to draw back the curtain and appreciate exactly what makes London work. For one weekend a year, the capital’s most iconic and impressive buildings – many of which have restricted access or are under construction – throw open their doors and invite the public inside to see how today’s architects, engineers and landscape designers are coming up with creative solutions and preparing the city for the future. More than 60 landmarks are participating in the Square Mile, supported by the City of London Corporation, and here’s our pick of the bunch.
Open House is hosting events across all 32 London boroughs on Saturday 20 September and Sunday 21 September. To find out about more events, visit openhouselondon.org.
Crossrail Moorgate Construction Site
Aside from showing usually-inaccessible historical ruins, Open House also offers an insight into London’s future. Don your hard hat and boots and head down to one of the city’s most exciting new projects, Crossrail, which is set to change the way we travel across London. At the Moorgate construction site, experts and engineers will be on hand to answer questions about the 73 mile high-speed railway line set to link east and west London in 2018. You can also view the 55m deep shaft.
Saturday and Sunday, pre-book only at crossrail.co.uk/openhouse, last tour 4pm
Billingsgate Roman House and Baths
The City of London is one of the places where the UK’s Roman heritage is most visible, and the house and baths at Billingsgate are some of the finest Roman remains in the country. They were discovered in 1848 during the construction of the Coal Exchange and, for the last couple of decades, have been inaccessible to the public at the bottom of an office block. Grab the chance to catch a rare glimpse of ancient London, including a late second century bath house, when the festival comes to town, and quiz the Museum of London’s on-site curators.
Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm
St Paul’s Cathedral triforium tour
St Paul’s is one of London’s most iconic buildings, but how many Londoners have actually paid the cathedral a visit? What better time to finally step inside London’s most familiar cathedral than Open House weekend. The Triforium Tour, which visitors can take on the Saturday, includes the 18th century Cathedral Library, Sir Christopher Wren’s first model and designs for the new cathedral and the view from the nave down the West Gallery.
Saturday 10am-4pm. Tours on the hour. Access via a registration desk in the cathedral crypt. Pre-book only. Visit eventbrite.com
You walk through these alleys and walkways every day, but how much do you actually know about the area in which you work? If you think guided tours are just for tourists, think again. Walk through the City’s nooks and crannies, passing Wren churches, livery halls and many other small-scale urban historical wonders. Open House’s City Alleyways tour is the perfect way to better acquaint yourself with the world you inhabit every day. The tour starts outside Guildhall Art Gallery and ends at The Monument.
Saturday and Sunday 10.30am-3.30pm. Regular departures every 45 minutes from 10.30am
Sculpture in the City
Also taking place during Open House weekend is Sculpture in the City, an open air art exhibition featuring work by internationally renowned contemporary sculptors. Expect weird and wonderful installations to appear between the shiny skyscrapers of the City. With legends of contemporary art Antony Gormley, Jim Lambie and Richard Wentworth all exhibiting, Sculpture in the City’s 4th year is sure to be its best yet.
Meet Saturday 10am or midday at the corner of 99 Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street. Pre-book only on email@example.com or cityoflondon.gov.uk/sculptureinthecity