Open House is this weekend and to help you on your merry journey behind the closed doors of London town, the folks over at the Grade I-listed Royal College of Physicians (RCP) (which will be open on Saturday September 22 between 11am and 4pm) have asked architectural expert Barnabas Calder to select his top five other modernist masterpieces. These should help you navigate the plethora of brutal buildings the city has to offer.
Royal College of Physicians (pictured above)
The Grade I-listed masterpiece of Sir Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre, is at the extremely elegant end of modernist architecture. It shows the architect’s respect for the RCP’s fine collection of art and artefacts, with exceptionally opulent finishes of marble, porcelain, and specially-made dark brick. Its internal spaces are generous and airy – don’t miss the sensational staircase hall – and frame beautiful views across to John Nash terraces beyond in Regent’s Park.
Alexandra Road/Stoneleigh Terrace
During the 1960s architects increasingly avoided tower block housing in favour of densely-packed low-rise. Two of the pioneering estates in Camden are open this year. Alexandra Road is the best-known, whilst the less famous Stoneleigh Terrace has a more private, secluded feel.
Balfron Tower/Trellick Tower
Take your pick this year between Ernö Goldfinger’s wonderful towerblocks, each recognisable from dozens of films and music videos. Trellick, in Westbourne Park, is later, taller, sleeker in profile, and better-known. Whilst Balfron’s main tower is less glamorous than Trellick, it has more small blocks around it which makes for a more impressive setting. Balfron is in Poplar, so don’t miss saying goodbye to Alison and Peter Smithson’s threatened Robin Hood Gardens estate when you’re there.
The Barbican/Golden Lane
There are flats open in the Golden Lane and Barbican estates, and the Barbican has two different tours; an architect’s studio, and the Guildhall School. The magnificent solidity and roughness of its concrete and the palatial grandeur of its scale and unity are always enjoyable. Best of all, the behind-the-scenes access during London Open House lets you see some of the bits you’d normally miss.
Langham House Close
James Stirling and James Gowan were at the heart of Brutalism in the late 1950s when they designed this small estate of flats. With lots of chunky timber, tough brick and concrete, the flats still have a thoroughly human domesticity, highlighted by pleasingly conspicuous fireplaces and nicely-shaped rooms.
For more info on Open House, see timeout.com.