Open House Weekend is one of the annual highlights for Londoners clambering to get behind the closed doors of all the weird, wonderful, new and old buildings they pass by every day in the city. But where to start? It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the massive amount of choice. Plus once you do decide, how do you know if there’ll be insane queues around the block or not? We got a heads up from the folks over at Open House. Here are their tips:
Five buildings that will be busy (but worth the wait):
1. The Leadenhall Building
Also known as ‘The Cheesegrater’, the brand new Leadenhall Building is the centrepiece of this year’s Open House. Tickets are available to access the building this Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 Sept.
2. The Gherkin
Lord Foster’s 30 St Mary Axe aka ‘the Gherkin’ (and, occasionally, more suggestive nicknames) will be open on Saturday and Sunday, 8am-3pm. Make sure you bring photo ID and be prepared for high security, including bag and body scans. There will be an organised system in place allowing groups of 30 people to be admitted every ten minutes for a maximum of 20 minutes. Visitors will have access to the foyer and the top of the domed building.
3. The Lloyd’s Building
Lord Rogers’ high-tech Lloyd’s of London building, constructed in 1986, with all its ducts, vents, stairwells and lift shafts on the outside (it’s sometimes referred to as the ‘inside-out building’) looks like an oil rig dumped in the heart of the City. For Open House London 2014, parts of Lloyd’s of London, including the ground floor and the eleventh floor gallery, will be open on Saturday, 10am-4pm.
4. Bank of England
This year there are regular tours of the Bank of England and the museum across the weekend from 9.30am-4pm. Tours last 30 minutes and are on a strict first come, first served basis. Be prepared for high security, including bag and body scans.
5. Foreign and Commonwealth Office
These Victorian government office buildings are Grade I-listed and include the elegant, decorated arches of Durbar Court. They will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10am-5pm.
Five places where you’ll have a better chance of getting in (and are definitely worth a visit):
1. Burlington House – and its many societies
This eighteenth-century mansion is home to the Royal Academy of Arts, Britain’s first art school. The Royal Academy of Arts will be open on Sunday, 10am-6pm.
2. 32 Great James Street
These Grade II-listed Georgian buildings have been transformed into brand spanking new twenty-first-century offices. They will be open Saturday, 10am-1pm.
3. Balcorne Street
A traditional Victorian terraced house that has utilised cheap materials and adhered to a tight budget. Open this Saturday from 1-10pm and Sunday, 1-5pm.
4. Greenwich Royal Naval College
The buildings of Greenwich Hospital, which have been home to the Royal Naval College for the last 100 years, are now being restored to house Greenwich University, Trinity College of Music and a new Maritime Institute. For this weekend there will be tours of parts of the site that are not ordinarily open to the public. Tours start from the information point on Lower Grand Square.
5. Leighton House
Leighton House has recently undergone a £1.6 million refurbishment project. Once the home of Lord Leighton (which explains the name), it will be open to view this Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm.