It’s that time of the year again. Jostling for attention with all the other festival-type stuff that seems to crowd September is Open House London on the 17th and 18th. A chance to devote a whole weekend to a voyeuristic architectural binge across the capital, where 700 institutions, schools, offices, government buildings, halls and a dwindling number of private residences throw open their doors to visitors, for free. In the case of buildings normally open to the public, there are often guided tours, access to areas usually off-limits and knowledgeable guides on hand to dispense history and trivia.
The trickiest bit is choosing which buildings to visit, trying to co-ordinate location with your favoured theme (eco houses? dance studios?) and which buildings are open on both days or one. The most I’ve ever managed is six buildings. There’s always the parochial option of seeing buildings only in the King’s Cross patch, and there’s quite a few to choose from this year:
Lumen United Reformed Church
88 Tavistock Place WC1H 9RS
(no times given)
Mary Ward House (pictured)
5-7 Tavistock Place WC1H 9SN
Saturday and Sunday 10am–5pm
Mecklenburgh Square WC1N 2AB
King’s Cross Station
East Side Offices, York Way N1 9AP
Pre-book only. Booked out at time of posting but there may be cancellations, and there’s an email waitlist.
King’s Cross Central development visitor centre
26 Pancras Road N1C 4TB
(no times given)
St Pancras International and Renaissance Hotel
Meet at the German Gymnasium
Saturday & Sunday 11am–4pm. Half-hourly tours
Or prebook for a tour inside the hotel proper on 07778 932 359 for hourly tours on Saturday
King’s Cross Construction Skills Centre
180 York Way N1C 0AZ
Victorian Waterpoint (the water tower)
St Pancras Canal Cruising Club, Camley Street N1C 4PN
Saturday 10am–5pm/Sunday 2.30pm–5pm (last entry 4.30pm)
90 York Way N1 9AG
Saturday and Sunday 9.30am–11pm
Special tours including some to backstage on Saturday only
London Canal Museum
12–13 New Wharf Road N1 9RT
Saturday 10am–4.30pm Regular tours.
The Gower School
10 Cynthia Street N1 9JF
Saturday 1–5pm Hourly architect-led tours
Vittoria Primary School
Half Moon Crescent N1 0TJ
Saturday & Sunday 10am–5pm Regular architect-led tours
Royal Veterinary College, Lightwell Café
Royal College Street
Saturday 10am–5pm Regular architect-led tours
For more detail on the features of the buildings; access and specific tour timings, a guide is available to buy on the Open House website, or for a short while an iPhone app ‘Open House London’ is being offered free. Alternatively many public libraries carry a copy of the guide to consult.
You can also get more of an archictectural flavour of some of the buildings mentioned above thanks to Tobias Newland's 'KX Open House' posting last year.