Architecture festival opens secret gardens and doors in Wimbledon

Buildings are the physical framework of any community; but how much do we really know about the structures shaping where – and how – we live in London?

Open House London is a city-wide initiative that has been running for 20 years which addresses just that question.

Its aim is to nurture appreciation for the capital’s architecture among those who pass it every day.

For one autumnal weekend a year, Londoners are given rare, free access to buildings not usually open to the public, from famous skyline landmarks to offices and homes.

Always immensely popular, this year’s Open House London was the best attended yet, seeing 35% higher visitor figures on last year.

Even at quieter suburban plots, like in Wimbledon, it’s not hard to see why.

Open House London

“I think most people are nosy,” said Richard Holden, an architect who invites the public into his home on Parkside Avenue for Open House every year, “That’s why they come.”

“They are allowed wherever they would like to go. You hear a lot about how society is going to the dogs – this is a good example how people respect other people’s privacy and their possessions,” he said.

Not only is his grand house unique for an impressive backstory of architectural feats to reorientate it to be south-facing; but also for its complex web of interlocking interiors and colourful aboriginal artworks on every wall.

“People are very complimentary about it and I like to think they’ve been inspired by it.

“Hopefully it gives them ideas for their own homes,” he added.

Of the 800 or more sites open to the public this year, it’s unsurprising the likes of the Bank of England, the 225m-tall Leadenhall Building and institutions such as 10 Downing Street tend to pull in the larger crowds, with reported hour-long queues.

But as one Open House steward told us: “It’s not just a matter of quantity, it’s a matter of how much people appreciate it.

“It’s succeeding in its aim: people are getting an appreciation for what good buildings are going up and being altered and are developing in parts of London they wouldn’t normally visit.”

For details and to get involved with Open House London next year click here.

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