Open House London: Our Picks
Open House London is one of our favourite weekends of the year. A celebration of all things fantastic about London architecture, the 2-day festival sees some of the city's premier real estate open their doors to visitors - free of charge.
More than 700 buildings are taking part in this year's open house program, so there's no shortage of sites to explore. From palaces to social housing, neighbourhoods to Government offices, it's possible to really get under the skin of London's rich cultural and architectural history.
We've sifted through the formidable list and selected five of our 'must-see's over the weekend. These are buildings we never tire of looking at, and think you should definitely have a snoop around over the weekend.
1. Battersea Power Station, SW8
As iconic as it is enigmatic, Battersea Power Station has remained something of a staple discussion for architects and investors since it formally closed 30 years ago. A former coal-fired power station, the Grade II listed Art Deco façade has stood a hollow shell for decades.
Having escaped a host of redevelopment projects by a number of prominent investors (who can forget the 'industrial theme park' proposal put forward by Alton Towers?), it finally looks like the archetypal power station has been repurposed - as apartments, due for completion in 2016/17.
For the time being, however, Battersea remains the obscurely anachronistic purposeless piece of industrial architecture it has been for years. This is how it will be presented for the intrepid urban explorers who make their way through its cavernous interior, for what may be the last time before it undergoes its impending transformation. See it before it's gone.
2. Akerman Health Centre, SW9
The Akerman Health Centre is a legend among hospital design. Whilst most medical centres, especially those in the City, are painfully inward-facing, this glorious piece of architecture seems to reflect the positive work done for the well-being of patients within.
To dub the Akerman as a 'cathedral for GPs' does it no injustice. Designed by 'Public Building Architect of the Year 2011', Henley Halebrown Rorrison, this building successfully combines the disciplines of Gothic with the logic of a Georgian terrace to spellbinding effect. Equal parts grand and humble, it is as if everything one should desire from modern healthcare has been visualised and represented as a construct.
3. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan, NBW10
Established as an authentic centrepiece for British Hinduism, this piece of architecture is testament to the gorgeous visual aspect inherent with the Hindu faith.
Constructed using only traditional materials and practices, this temple was once the largest Hindu temple outside of India. Though it has since been surpassed in terms of size, the temple loses none of its impact and remains a hugely stunning sacred space.
Built entirely from Indian and Italian marble, Sardinian granite and Bulgarian limestone, the building is unique for the city in that no steel or iron was used in any part of the construction. Officially recognised as one of the 70 Wonders of the Modern World by the Reader's Digest, it was lauded for its scale, intricate detail, and the extraordinary story of its construction.
4. The Lloyd's Building, EC3M
Heralding a radical shift in architectural practices, the Lloyd's building has been described as a perfect representation of the 'Bowellism' movement. Pushing all services, such as ducts, lifts, and staircases to the exterior ensures maximum space on the interior. A huge, almost Rand-esque overhaul as far as traditionally acceptable architectural conventions, Bowellism isn't an approach we can see catching on - but we sure are glad some brave practitioners are implementing it.
A form so unique the building has become the youngest Grade I listed building in history, English Heritage has dubbed it "universally recognised as one of the key buildings of the modern epoch." With an interior as mind-blowing as you'd imagine, the Lloyd's Building is an absolute must on the Open House London tour.
5. Trellick Tower, W10
Visible looming across the London skyline from almost any raised point in West London, Trellick Tower is instantly recognisable, and frequently divisive.
Developed as social housing, the vogue of tower block living and Brutalist architecture has led to a significant portion of Trellick Tower being sold off as private property. The Tower's bleak history and frankly dystopian exterior has done nothing to shun buyer interest - it has, perhaps, even served as something of a pull.
Quite why Trellick's unforgiving concrete façade has inspired such interest after years of nightmarish high rise social housing remains to be seen, but there's something about it. We can't put our finger on it, but for some reason Trellick Tower may be our favourite building on the Open House London roster.