Open House London kicks off this weekend, offering a behind-the-scenes look at some of the City's historic landmarks and shiny new skyscapers. Here are six to see in the Square Mile.
Ever wondered what the view looks like from the top of the Cheesegrater? Or how many copies of the Old Testament are in the library at St Paul’s Cathedral?
Open House London is your opportunity to find out, offering a glimpse behind closed doors of private homes, government buildings, historic sites and sparkling new skyscrapers across the Capital, including some of the Square Mile’s most iconic architectural landmarks.
More than a quarter of a million people are expected to turn out for the 26th edition of the festival, which has grown from just 20 buildings in 1992 to more than 800 across all 30 boroughs for 2018, making London the biggest Open House event in the world.
Unsurprisingly, the City of London’s melting pot of historic and contemporary architecture is well-represented, with more than 50 buildings on the bill this year, including some (very) old favourites, a couple of newcomers, plus guided art and history tours. Check out our top five City buildings to visit this weekend and visit openhouselondon.org.uk for the full programme.
Bloomberg European HQ
The most anticipated City office development in recent memory, Bloomberg’s £1billion European headquarters has collected a string of awards since its official opening last October, including the title of world’s most sustainable office building.
Architects Foster + Partners achieved a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating of 98.5%, the highest design-stage score ever of any major office development, within a striking sandstone and bronze facade sympathetic to the historic surroundings and ultra-contemporary interiors befitting a global media company.
They also managed to return the archaeological remains of the Roman Temple of Mithras to the site of their original discovery beneath the building, creating a new cultural hub for the Square Mile.
22 September, 10am to 5pm, and 23 September, 10pm-1pm, tours run every
30 minutes and must be booked in advance
Middle Temple Hall
In the heart of the legal quarter, Middle Temple Hall is one of the four ancient Inns of Court and arguably the finest surviving Elizabethan hall in the country.
Look out for some famous faces in the oil paintings above the Bench, including Queen Elizabeth I, who frequented banquets held at the hall and reputedly gifted the three 29-foot planks of single oak that make up the High Table – cut down in Windsor Forest and floated down the Thames ahead of the hall’s completion in 1582.
23 September, 1pm to 5pm
Middle Temple Lane EC4Y 9BT
St Helen’s Bishopsgate
A survivor of the Great Fire, the Bishopsgate fire of 1765, and two World Wars, old St Helen’s has got some staying power. The Square Mile’s oldest church (built way back in 1210) was damaged in 1992 by two IRA bombs that detonated nearby, but was restored two years later under Terry Quinlan.
Its collection of artefacts, greater than any other church in Greater London with the exception of Westminster Abbey, has earned it the nickname the ‘Westminster Abbey of the City’.
22 September, 10am to 5pm, and 23 September 12.30pm to 3.30pm
Great St Helen’s EC3A 6AT
The City is full of livery halls with varying degrees of embellishment, but Watermen’s Hall on St Mary-at-Hill lays claim to being the only remaining Georgian original.
Designed by William Blackburn in 1780, it is classed as a pristine example of domestic architecture from the period, despite its grandest room – The Freemen’s Room – being an addition of the 1980s.
Look out for displays of the Worshipful Company of Watermen’s uniforms, including a Doggett’s coat and badge presented to the company by Prince Albert in 1851.
22 September, 10am to 1.15pm
Tours run every 45 minutes and must be booked in advance
St Paul’s Cathedral Triforium
Most people would be familiar with Sir Christopher Wren’s cathedral in the heart of the City (not least because planning laws protect its views from Richmond to Alexandra Palace) but few would have encountered the scale model housed inside it.
A tour of the triforium – the huge hidden corridor that runs around the nave – offers access to the 18th-century library, Wren’s Great Model (roughly the size of a garden shed), and a cracking view from the west gallery.
22 September, 10am to 4pm
St Paul’s Churchyard EC4M 8AD
Tours run every 30 minutes and must be booked in advance
Golden Lane Estate
The Barbican might be better known, but Golden Lane Estate residents will tell you theirs is the one that started it all for post-war housing regeneration in the City. In 1951, the City of London Corporation staged a contest to design a high density, low-cost modern housing estate on the bleak, bombed out sites north of St Paul’s Cathedral.
A young architect by the name of Geoffrey Powell beat out 178 entries to claim victory and, teaming up with his Kingston Polytechnic colleagues Peter Chamberlin and Christoph Bon, delivered a scheme so successful that it earned them the commission of the site next door.
From the sweeping curves of Crescent House to the bright yellow beacon of Great Arthur House, discover why Golden Lane remains a posterchild for the modern urban village from those who know it best. Residents will lead guided tours of the estate, including the recently restored community centre and children’s playground.
22 September, 10am to 5pm, and 23 September, 10am to 5pm
Golden Lane Estate, Fann Street, EC1Y 0RD
Tours run every 90 minutes (11am to 4pm)