You are probably not going to believe but during my 8 years in London, it is only the second time I have done Open House London. For those who do not know what it is, it is an amazing two-day festival in September, where a lot of private and public houses and institutions are opening their doors to the general public. You can visit some amazingly designed houses and famous buildings such as Gerkin or a Prime Minister official residence at 10 Downing Street.
Of course, all the well-known buildings will have an enormous queue to get it. If you volunteer during the festival in one of the buildings as a steward you will receive a special badge that will allow you to skip all the queues. I applied for a volunteering job at the White Collar Factory this year and really wanted to share my experience with you but at a very last moment, they cancelled their participation in the festival. Well, but I still got my magic badge and I used it to get to a very special building, that you will see at the end of this post.
In order to see as many sites as possible, you will need to plan in advance and potentially select interesting buildings within one area or at least one side of the city. You can find all the information, maps and descriptions of the buildings on the official Open House London website.
We decided to hit East London and started with a new Here East development for innovative businesses and creative startups that is now readapting the Olympic Press and Broadcast Centre.
First, we went on a tour of Plexal Innovation Center, developed by ENTIQ and Delancey and designed by Grimshaw. The interior design of the hub took an industrial approach as designers got their inspiration from the town planning, making working areas look like individual houses and a passageway in between like streets. There are a lot of informal spaces that encourages people to gather, collaborate, share ideas, relax and socialise.
The coloured lighting triangles on the ceiling not only work as a decorative part of the interior but could also be used as a navigation system to the different sectors of the space.
From informal spaces, they have this amazing theatre style seating area that leads directly to the canal side. Can you imagine how cool is that during the summer when you can fully enjoy this inside/outside space?
Also quite liked their relaxation area with faux grass and sun-loungers, that would be perfect for this well-deserved lunchtime nap. If not sleepy, yoga and other activities are welcomed.
Next stop on our tour was new Wayne McGregor dance studio, designed by the architectural firm We Not I, that consisted of three dance studios, including two of the largest in London, and a series of playful spaces for making and creating. This space is built to encourage various creative collaborations between dance, film, music, visual art, technology and science.
After Here East, we went to see a Flat in Hackney, that featured a new side return extension, designed by CCASA Architects, and the prettiest hipster interior.
I really liked how they brought extra light to the bathroom by installing a piece of frosted glass between the bathroom and the living room.
Bathroom furniture was built in plywood, featuring handles in antique copper, that were matching the mirror and the wall lights above the basin.
As the bedroom size was quite small, wardrobes were chosen with the sliding doors. The colour of the wardrobe is everything though 🙂
In the kitchen/dining/lounge area, they had a really nice mix of modern and completely unique pieces.
Absolutely loved this coffee table that was made from the antique cupboard door.
Kitchen, as well as the bathroom, benefited from the plywood finish and antique copper details.
This is the new side return extension itself, where the kitchen is located. You can see how the architect Antonio (my friend’s colleague) is carefully studying the structural side of the design 😉 Meanwhile, I would like to draw your attention to this yellow vertical beam behind the guy in the yellow-orange waistcoat. I must say I really like when structural parts of the building are welcomed to the final interior scheme and are not hidden behind the plasterboard and rendering.
After we went to see another house with a side return extension. The next house was located in the same area, however, this time we had to queue for more than 30min to get in.
The house was designed by its owners, Vercelli Cohen Architects.
The new wooden staircase became a design centrepiece of the house.
Steps to the new kitchen space were made in the same wood finish as the main staircase and joined nicely with the polished concrete floor.
The new side return extension featured a beautiful glass roof in one piece. So, so nice. I saw a picture on the architects’ instagram showing how this pane of glass was transported to the site with a crane. Pretty impressive, and not cheap 😉
The basement was excavated to create an additional bedroom with a separate bathroom and a utility room. I admired this sunken garden they created at the front of the house. A metal grating was installed above the garden for safety reasons, requested by the council. However, I really liked how it gave this feeling of privacy, almost working as a canopy roof for the garden. I also quite liked the raw structure of the garden wall and the way it nicely contrasted with the plants.
One of the bedrooms was fully finished in a plywood material, including all the joinery. Yes, like the plywood in the other Hackney house. What is it with the plywood and the area 🙂 ?
All the bathrooms in the house were designed in a minimal style, featuring grey colours and some raw materials.
And now comes my special building. Yes, it is London City Hall, designed by Sir Norman Foster. Being a big fan of him, I was admiring the building long time and was dreaming of visiting one day. When I arrived, the queue was insane, but I knew that I could collect my ‘skip the queue’ volunteering badge inside the building and not wait for hours. By talking to security guys and Open House reps, I was lead to the building as a VIP passing all the queueing people to collect my badge 😉 And here I was, inside the City Hall.
City Hall is one of the capital’s most symbolically important projects, which expresses the transparency of the democratic process and demonstrates the potential for a wholly sustainable, virtually non-polluting public building.
The building’s unusual shape helps to control the temperature inside. The shape of the building is a modified sphere, that minimises the surface area of the roof exposed to direct sunlight, which reduces the amount of heat build up inside the building.
The building also uses groundwater to cool itself, which is very energy efficient. This reduces electricity consumption as there is no need to refrigerate water or use air conditioning systems. After being used to cool the building this water is then used for flushing the toilets.
The floor plates at the back of the building are staggered inwards, providing natural shading for the floor beneath.
It was constructed using over 4 tonnes of steel and 13,100 square metres of concrete.
Open House is magical, especially if you are interested in interior design and architecture or just a curious individual. I am definitely doing one next year!