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Open House London: our highlights

Peek behind the doors of some of London’s most famous buildings at Open House weekend this September

Courtyard Housing

The annual Open House London weekend gives Londoners the chance to explore behind the closed doors of some of the capital's biggest, most renowned and most secret venues for free in September 2017. This is your chance to explore a bit of hidden London and have a poke around some of London's best buildings

When is Open House London?
It takes place for one weekend and one weekend only in September. Check back for so for 2017 dates. 

Where is Open House London?
Across the whole of London, with the full programme of architectural venues spanning 30 of the capital's boroughs. 

What is Open House London?
An annual celebration of London's architecture and design, which allows access to 800-odd venues not normally open to the public – private homes, government buildings, historic sites, educational establishments – but it's not just about being nosy, there are also loads of walks and tours to bring the buildings alive. See below for more details. 

How much does Open House London cost?
Amazingly, it's all free. Some of the popular events need to be pre-booked, but otherwise you can just turn up on the day.

Below you'll find the picks from last year's Open House festival, check back soon for our 2017 highlights.

Previous Open House highlights

BedZED

Saturday 10am-1pm. Hourly tours (pre-book)

Completed in 2002, BedZED is the UK's first large-scale eco-village and sustainable community. Come visit its future-focused homes, offices, college and community facilities to get some ideas for how to live past Peak Oil.

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Beddington Corner

Buddhapadipa Temple

Sat and Sun 10am-5pm. Ten-minute tours

Visit this Thai-style Theravada temple - one of just two outside Asia - to see its amazing Shrine Room, which contains a golden Buddha, copied from the Buddha Sihing in Bangkok, and its four-acre gardens, lake, grove and orchard. 

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Wimbledon Village

Deephams Sewage Treatment Works

Saturday 10am-5pm

This sewage treatment works processes 209,000 tonnes of flow every day. It is currently undergoing an upgrade, due for completion in 2018. No need to pre-book. 

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Upper Edmonton
Greenwich Reach Swing Bridge

Greenwich Reach Swing Bridge

Sunday 1pm-5pm

Check out this bridge over Deptford Creek that swings to let bridges on and off the Thames. 

Glaisher Street, Deptford SE8 3ER

Ruins of Garrison Church - RA Barracks

Ruins of Garrison Church - RA Barracks

Sat and Sun 10am-5pm

Built as a church for the Royal Artillery at Woolwich, this site was bombed in 1944. The RA restored it as its Victoria Cross memorial with mosaics, which last year the Heritage Lottery Fund conserved with a new roof.

Grand Depot Rd, SE18 6XJ

Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility

Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility

Sat 10am-4pm. Tours every 15 mins (pre-book)

Ever stared into your recycling bin and though: what really happens to this crap? If so, you need to look round this: Europe's most advanced recycling facilities. All your questions - including 'What do you guys do with all London's old egg boxes?' - will be answered forthwith. 

43 Devon Street, SE15 1AL

 

 

St Leonards Air Raid Shelter

St Leonards Air Raid Shelter

Sun 1pm-5pm

Have a nose around this unusual four-roomed survivor of the Second World War under the garden at St Leonards Court. 

Palmers Road, East Sheen SW14 7NG

Thames River Police

Thames River Police

Sat and Sun 11am-5pm. Regular tours

Discover what it's like to be London's version of Magnum PI at this little museum for the Thames River Police.

98 Wapping High Street E1W 2NE

Previous Open House highlights

Kebony House

Kebony House

Saturday 10am-5pm

Built just last year, this Hampstead house sits under its own garden. Its name 'kebony', comes from the luxurious sustainable hardwood that the building is wrapped in. 

Oak Hill Park, NW3 7LP

The Pavilion

The Pavilion

Saturday 10am-5pm

This award-winning and utterly modern house neighbours a Grade II* listed pagoda in the Blackheath Conservation Area. It's fully automated and features open plan living with plenty of natural light plus verdant gardens.

The Pavillion, Pagoda Gardens, Blackheath, SE3 0UZ

Vex

Vex

Sat and Sun, 10am-5pm. Last entry 4.30pm.

This curvy concrete house on Maury Road is the product of a collab between architects Chance de Silva and experimental musician Scanner, named after Eric Satie's 28-hour piano piece. The Wire readers will delight. 

85 Maury Rd, N16 7BT

Wistaston Cottage

Wistaston Cottage

Saturday 10am-5pm

Timber's as popular as ever - and this 2014 extension explains why. Banged on the back of a semi in Putney, the two-storey addition looks great, and slots right into life in a period when Londoners are looking to stay put and spread out. 

65 Medfield Street, Roehampton SW15 4JY

Courtyard Housing

Courtyard Housing

Saturday. Tour 11am (pre-book)

Now THIS we would like to retire to. Just two years old, this Dagenham development copied all the best bits from London's traditional almhouse model and updated it for babyboomers. Suddenly all that chat about starting a pension sounds a lot more interesting.

Courtyard Housing, Rainham Road, Dagenham RM10 7EJ

Previous Open House highlights

10 Downing Street

Tours Sunday, by ballot only. Apply here.

Yes, really. Get a once in a lifetime chance to step behind Britain's most iconic front door, thanks to these tours by Open House London. Surprise: Number 10 is actually made up of two houses joined together, a cheap terrace house at the front and a much grander building, overlooking Horse Guards Parade. Theresa May won't be in, sadly - but you might see Larry the Cat prowling around the place, which is much more exciting, no?

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Whitehall
Alphabeta

Alphabeta

Sat 1pm-5pm. Hourly tours. Last entry 4.30pm.

The historic office building has been given a makeover and an extension in order to create a contemporary space fit for the challenges of a changing workplace culture.

14-18 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1BR

ArcelorMittal Orbit

Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm. Tickets by ballot

The curly-wurly red scaffolding tower lords it over the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from its position right alongside the Olympic Stadium. Designed by the artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond, it stands 114.5m (376ft) tall – with lifts (and a 455-step staircase) up to two platforms from which you take in the interesting, if not entirely spectacular, view ­– The Shard, St Paul’s and the Wembley arches are all very much on the skyline, as well as the hills and treetops of nearby Epping Forest. 

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Stratford

Barbican Centre

Sat 9am-11pm. Sun 12noon-11pm. Guided tours Sunday (pre-book 0207 683 8891)

You've seen countless concerts and art exhibitions here, drank coffee by the fountains and wandered through its tropical jungle. Now on the tenth anniversary of its refurbishment, Open House will be running guided tours along its labyrinthine highwalks to explore the 2,000-flat estate, hot house, gardens, arts complex and lakeside terrace, explaining the story behind this icon of New Brutalism.

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Barbican

Christ Church Spitalfields

Sat 10am-5pm. Tours 3pm, 4pm. 

Explore the crypt of this beautiful Hawksmoor Church, refurbished last year, before marvelling at its interior - an exemplary bit of English Baroque.

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Spitalfields

Gray's Inn

Sun 12noon-4pm

Seven hundred years of legal history (plus a bit of architectural history, thanks to the post-war bomb repairs) pack into this historic building, around which visitors can wander freely on Sunday afternoon.

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Holborn
Lancaster House

Lancaster House

Sat and Sun 9.30am-5pm. Half-hourly tours, pre-book

An extravagant building fit for a royal: This private palace, originally built for the Duke of York, has a magnificent central hall and staircase. You can access  the whole house including fine rooms on ground and first floor.

Stable Yard SW1A 1BB

Robin Hood Gardens

Robin Hood Gardens

Saturday and Sunday. 10am-5pm. Hourly tours (pre-book)

Possibly the last chance to visit these pioneering flats, thanks to the now-perpetual threat of demolition they face. As well as going on tours of the building, visitors can see an exhibition by a local photography collective documenting the changes in the area.

Woolmore St, Poplar, E14 0HG

Senate House

Sat 10am-5pm. Informal tours

This Grade II listed building – actually London's tallest secular building when it opened in 1936 as the administrative HQ of the University of London – balances Portland stone classicism and Art Deco elements in perfect harmony. Look out too for the handsome, lavishly-panelled interiors and original period features - stars of Richard Loncraine's compelling 1995 adaptation of Richard III. Visitors are also welcome to explore Senate House Library, showcasing the 'Shakespeare: Metamorphosis' exhibition.

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Bloomsbury

Previous Open House highlights

Chiswick Business Park

Sat 12noon, Sun 2.30pm

Discover the lives of Chiswick sons and residents including the inventor of Daylight Savings Time, the co-founder of the Law Society and the painter Patrick Caulfield. Walk over Stamford Brook, past an ice house and onto the South Acton Estate. South Acton Residents Action Group leads the way.

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Gunnersbury

London's Engineering Heritage

Sat 11am, 1pm

Ever wondered how civil engineers keep floods at bay and keep sewage well out of sight (and smell)? This year's tour by the Institution of Civil Engineers answers all your questions and provides a potted history of the city's engineering landmarks - by boat, no less.

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South Bank
Modernism in Metroland

Modernism in Metroland

Sat 10am and 2pm

Take a trip to Stanmore in idyllic 'Metroland' – the suburbs served by the Metropolitan Line – for a walking tour of the art deco and modernist homes.

Stanmore tube station

The Low Line

Sat 3pm

Since 2008, Gort Scott has been developing the walkway along the viaduct between Southwark tube and London Bridge to make it easier for people to explore Southwark on foot, and for small local businesses to settle in the arches. Join a guided walk to discover how and why this area is changing.

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Southwark
Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands

Sun 3pm. Pre-book

Get to nosey round the soon-to-be nature reserve a year ahead of its opening, thanks to this tour by London Wildlife Trust and wetlands architects.

Walthamstow Reservoirs, 2 Forest Road, London, N17 9NH 

Previous Open House highlights

Build a View Shaper

Little art enthusiasts can take inspiration from the famous sculptures that sit on Leadenhall Markets' doorstep, capture what they see, then add their creations to a growing sculptural art work that wil be built across the day. Meet outside the Gherkin or, if raining, Leadenhall Market.

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18 Sep 2016

Building Blocks

How high can you build a tower? Using lightweight materials, families are encouraged to work together to build gothic structures, Norman arches and super tall towers at this workshop at the Cheyneygates. (Look around you to get some tips and tricks).

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17 Sep 2016

City of a Thousand Architects

An opportunity for budding architects to contribute to a giant model of an eco-friendly London of the future. Kids can plan, design and construct stadiums, cycle routes, green-zones, schools and anything else their minds can dream up before adding it to the structure. This drop-in session is one of a number of Open House Junior events aimed at families.

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17 Sep 2016

Crafternoon at JW3

Help to create a giant map of London during this free family-friendly event which is part of the Open House Junior events programme. The session is geared towards kids between two and nine years old and aims to let their imaginations run wild as they create marshmallow buildings in geodesic shapes.

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18 Sep 2016

Scale-up the City!

Budding architects can create replicas of buildings from the London skyline and learn about scale at this drop-in workshop taking place at RIBA as part of the Open House Junior programme. Professionals in the field will be on hand to help kids make large scale drawings of buildings such as the 'Gherkin' and BT Tower which will then be transformed into a 3D skyline.

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17 Sep 2016

Find more fun things to do in September

London events in September

Say goodbye to summer in style – get out and get stuck into the last of the capital's festivals, pop-ups and outdoor shindigs this month.

Read more
By: Phoebe Trimingham

Comments

8 comments
Hitesh J
Hitesh J

BAPS Neasden, London Mandir - A truly inspiring and beautiful Mandir. Mandir is the name of a Hindu place of worship and prayer. It is composed of two words ‘Man’ (meaning Mind) and ‘Dir’( meaning Still) and thus it is a place where one experiences peace from worldly problems and the Soul becomes one with God.

It is a place of great calm and serenity where people of all ages and walks of life came together to pray and volunteer their services. The Sadhus (Monks) are very knowledgeable and helpful and the volunteers are ever smiling and attentive.

A wonderful place to visit and reflect.

Kaloyan
Kaloyan

Go only if you're ready to wait 2-3 hours in a queue. I won't even bother to check next time.

Didier
Didier

went to battersea today, they closed 1 hour before...so I went to the shard afterwards, they're not part of the Open House since you pay to get in. Nice

Phil
Phil

You forgot the Bank of England is also having an open day this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, from 9.30am to 4pm.

Chirag L
Chirag L

@AME its swaminarayan hindu temple ,really good place to visit and where you can get peace of mind

sandra
sandra

Also, looking forward to seeing the Stairway to Heaven Memorial and hearing about the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster - the worst civilian disaster of the 2nd World War which has largely been kept secret ever since. It's next door to Bethnal Green underground station and part of the Open House weekend.