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Open House London: Our choice of over 700 buildings open to the public this September

14 September 2011 | Tom Butler

Open House London celebrates all that is best about the capital’s buildings, places and neighbourhoods. Every September, it gives a unique opportunity to get out and under the skin of London’s amazing architecture, with over 700 buildings of all kinds opening their doors to everyone – all for free. This year it takes place over the weekend of 17 and 18 September.

I love September. You’ve got the first couple of weeks, which are often some of the best of the summer after a disappointingly moist August, and then towards the latter part of the month you begin to see the first throes of Autumn with the reds and coppers amongst the trees.
 
It’s also the time of the year for Open House, which is surely the greatest showcase of London’s architectural individuality year on year. How often does a city open over 700 venues to the public for free? Well in London’s case, once a year.
 
How do you whittle 700 down to the best 5? Well you can’t, but here’s a few suggestions for a great weekend. It’ll spark a few discussions if nothing else…
 
BT Tower
 
For the first time in 29 years the 34th floor will be open to the public. One of the most iconic buildings London’s skyline has had since construction began 50 years ago and has been a grade II listed building since 2003. The incredible vista will be open to just 480 successful applicants, so if you want to be part of a one off experience then don’t hang around.
 
Royal Festival Hall
 
At the heart of the Southbank Centre and part of one of the iconic buildings London has to offer, the venue’s design has provoked many discussions over it’s beauty since opening 60 years ago. As the first post war Grade I listed building in London it’s set to be part of the landscape for generations to come, and now backstage tours are available as part of the Open House weekend.
 
Lyric Hammersmith
 
Is there another singular building in London that has such contrasting architecture than the Lyric’s façade to it’s auditorium? The theatre as it stands now re-opened in 1979 and casts an imposing big brotherly eye over the local community, yet insides stands a stunning 19th century theatre designed by Frank Matcham. Tours of the building available on the Saturday…be sure to pre-book.
 
Lloyds of London
 
If anyone ever tells me they work in insurance, I imagine a dull grey existence slowly whiling away the hours in a soulless box of an office. Richard Rogers clearly thought differently however when he designed the Lloyds Building in ‘78. This is London’s answer to the Pompidou centre and a genuine film star appearing in over a dozen hit movies. A must see.

City Hall
 
Anyone fancy finding out what Boris gets up to on a daily basis? Well now you can…sort of! In its final year being known as City Hall before a name change to London House after the Olympics. That’s a massive improvement on it being referred to as a ‘glass testicle’ and ‘glass gonad’ by mayors past and present. It’s just a fantastic opportunity for budding architects to see such a unique design along with brilliant views of the Southbank and the Thames.

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