Open House London, the Capital’s largest architectural showcase, is taking place on 20-21 September. This year’s event will once again reveal the fabric of London in all its diversity: opening eyes and minds to the architectural gems, contemporary design and areas of urban change that define the city today.
I wasn’t too fussed about going to see London Open House. My thought was if I managed to cross a few while I wander down London on my way to pick up some ingredients from downtown then it’s meant to me.
London Open House is an annual event in London where a number of buildings not normally accessible to the public are open for a weekend. This year there are 699 buildings open ranging from the Roman period all the way up to present day.
I was rather curious to see Somerset House though and was pleasantly surprised to note that there was hardly any queue for the guided tour. I grabbed a ticket for an afternoon tour and whilst waiting for the tour to start I wandered down Fleet Street and bumped into a crowd of people waiting to get into 120 Fleet Street (also known as the old Daily Express building). With an hour to kill I joined the fast moving queue and was able to good half hour in the gold and silver Art Nouveau decorated foyer.
It wasn’t the easiest place to take a photo with the number of people huddled around in a small area and after a while I just concentrated on taking detail shots.
Next stop was Somerset House, a building complex I passed so frequently that it faded into the background. It struck me how big and ornate everything was the moment I stepped into the courtyard. Hard to believe that a few years ago it was used solely as a civil service building with the courtyard used as a staff parking station. What were interesting were the bottom levels of the building that were not accessible by the general public at any other time of the year.
Down below the dark corridors made a perfect moody backdrop for period dramas, which was apparently what they were often used for. I was surprised to see the reminder of old headstone loitered in the area, reflecting the layers of history.
Walking out into the sun, cyclers from the annual Freewheel event were making their way across London. It’s true what they say, there’s always something happening in London.