Open House London celebrates 25th anniversary

From places of worship to industrial complexes, government buildings to a yurt, more than 800 buildings in the capital will open their doors to the public this weekend (16-17 September) as architecture festival Open House London celebrates its 25th year with its biggest event to date.

This year’s highlights include the Metropolitan police’s New Scotland Yard headquarters, which was recently revamped by renowned architects AHMM; an urban farm in Waterloo; One Blackfriars, nicknamed “the Vase” (London’s newest skyscraper) and an exhibition celebrating Foster + Partners 50th anniversary at the architects’ Battersea studio.

Exterior of New Scotland Yard, which will be free to visit over the Open House London weekend.
Open and shut case … New Scotland Yard will be free to visit over the Open House London weekend. Photograph: Timothy Soar


For the first time since its launch, every London borough will be participating in the event, with Kingston-upon-Thames opening the doors to a number of properties, including a 16th-century conduit house and the premises of a century-old funeral directors.

Among the household name buildings and Open House regulars are the BT Tower, William Morris’s Red House, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin, while lesser-known architectural gems include a 1930s Romford house designed by London Zoo penguin pool architect Berthold Lubetkin, and Barretts Grove in Stoke Newington, a strikingly modern block of six apartments with wicker balconies protruding from its red brick facade..

Interior of a drawing room at Drapers' Hall, in the city of London
Tailor made … Drapers’ Hall in the City of London


Four Crossrail stations will also be open to visitors, offering the last chance to see them in relative solitude before they open for service next year.

The free event was started by Open City founding director Victoria Thornton in 1992, and last year saw more than a quarter of a million people visiting properties or attending a walk, talk or tour across the capital. The concept has also spread internationally, with Open House festivals now held in more than 35 cities across five continents. Zurich and Stockholm are the latest cities to adopt the concept, holding their first events this autumn.

As well as celebrating architecture, Open House is founded on the importance of the public realm. “We want Londoners to speak as confidently about their built environment as they do about books, music and art,” says Open House director Rory Olcayto. “Getting the public inside great buildings and visiting places that are well-designed is the best way to do it.”