Despite being a fantastic city to explore, quite a few of London’s major buildings are on lock-down most of the year – unless you work there, are a VIP, or super stealthy ninja. However, each September, hundreds of buildings fling open their doors to people like you and me during the Open House weekend, allowing everyone to have a wander around everything from 10 Downing Street, to the Gherkin and Bank of England.
There are two types of people who do the Open House weekend – the clever ones who plan things weeks ahead, pre-book and move faster than Usain Bolt and then there are unorganised types like me who pick a few random buildings the night before and hope there won’t be any queues. This is what I found on my travels.
First stop was the William Booth College in south-east London. This training building for The Salvation Army was designed by the same guy who did the Tate Modern and Battersea Power Station – so it’s all about the Gothic. I didn’t get converted but I had a bit of a epiphany as I climbed the tower – I remembered that I am somewhat scared of high stairs that seem a bit wobbly, so it was a bit daunting, but I made it to the top! Here I was rewarded with a view of central London from afar as well as places like Croydon, Bromley, Crystal Palace – yep all of South London’s star attractions.
Next was the more central Senate House, a magnificent art deco structure in Bloomsbury. Despite being the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984 – the place where propaganda and brain-washing are the norm – no amount of mind control could get me to love the place. There was a lot of information on offer, but the dead empty spaces failed to inspire me.
And last, but definitely not least was the nearby McCann office. I’ve walked past the building too many times dreaming of a Mad Men advertising life and figured Open House was the closest I could get it to it. Originally designed for a luxury car company hiring out chauffeur-driven limousines to the rich and famous – the 1930s art deco building can best be described as a real life Fisher Price Garage (90s kids will know), complete with a circular ramp where cars were driven up to the showrooms on the upper floors. Now the ramp leads modern day Dons to their various offices and meetings, as well as the rooftop which I can only imagine is the best place to for a creative pitch session. And not forgetting, there was a massive life-size bear too.
Missed this year’s Open House? Keep an eye on their website for 2016 dates and info. Fingers crossed I win the ballot for the BT Tower.
What London building would you want to see from the inside?