Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Open House in London

Good morning

I hope that you did not get too wet yesterday in the horrible rain...  What a day.  Not nice! 

At least there is a glimmer of sunshine today. 

I have to admit one of the best events of the year is coming up.  It is called Open House.  You can go and see houses in London.  I do have to admit, I love a good look at other peoples way of decorating. 

Now in its 21st year, Open House has become a fixture — proof of our love of architecture and our growing love of London. The annual weekend of property-gawping's popularity continues to grow: Open House 2013 has more than 800 entries to choose from over the weekend of September 21-22, so there is something for everyone, from cemeteries to livery halls to hi-tech modernism, plus huge new developments such as East Village, Stratford's Olympic village.

In past years, top attractions such as the Gherkin have proved almost impossible to get into, with long queues snaking around the streets outside. So this year, four hot properties are being balloted for entry, with ballots open until September 13. The Shard and the London Eye are two of them. The other two, perhaps unexpectedly — but proving our fascination with old as well as new buildings — are 10 Downing Street, and 700-year-old Gray's Inn. As well as choosing from buildings or bigger development sites, there are more than 60 tours and evening events on offer.

This year's strongest theme is regeneration, as London transforms itself in front of our eyes at a pace and scale not seen since the Fifties.

East Village, once home to all those athletes, is top of the tour list, with the bonus that if you like it you can actually go and live there. It is a new area of London — part of the social legacy of the 2012 Games. With its new E20 postcode, this is an ambitious form of social engineering, with a state-of-the-art medical centre, green areas, an academy school, cafés, shops and restaurants, and lots of new housing, much of it to rent rather than buy — and all only 20 minutes from the West End.

Courtyard House in N1 has been transformed from its former life as a gloomy Victorian home (left); the Diamond House at Battersea Square is an innovative re-working of a five-storey Victorian house (right)

In south London, for the first and last time as part of Open House, you can get into Battersea Power Station's turbine hall (200 at a time) before the 38-acre site is turned into 3,500 new homes.

Or try a walk round Nine Elms, the largest regeneration site in the city, with four big architecture practices carving it up between them. The walk is pre-book only.

A new square fully reveals the arched facade of King's Cross station for the first time in 150 years

Peek inside award-winning homes

New for 2013 is Laura Dewe Matthews's cute Gingerbread House, on the difficult site of an old box factory in Hackney. This clever little house has already won awards. Or try Coffey Architect's Courtyard House in N1, a brilliant revamp/extension that transformed a dark Victorian house to something with light and pizzazz and an internal glassy courtyard; or the Diamond House in Battersea, an interesting re-work of a five-storey Victorian house with a difficult diamond-shaped footprint.

You can also visit London's newest landmark building, the Crystal-Siemens Sustainability Centre at Victoria Docks, E16. This remarkable, low-slung, geometric, glass-canopied building designed by Wilkinson Eyre is dedicated to improving our knowledge of sustainability with exhibitions and talks, and is the largest sustainable building in the world.

For more details visit openhouselondon.org.uk.

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