Open House London takes place every year in September. This year, from 21-22 September 2019, is a weekend where you will want to make sure you have found a London hotels special offers to get to the city. This architecture festival is one of the world’s biggest, where over 800 buildings, walks, talks and tours are completely free for the public to view and enjoy. 20 August is when official programming comes out, but here is a guide on how to ensure you are ready to use that information to its full potential.
In order to make the most of your trip and 2019’s Open House London, it is interesting to look back on the past Open House weekends. This helps to really come to terms with and understand the importance of it, and how deeply rooted an institution this is. Knowing about where it came from makes it easier to admire, appreciate and enjoy where it is and where it is going.
The first Open House London was back in 1992, and in the 25 years that have followed, the values of the event have been maintained and strengthened. The number of people who participate in the event in modern times is a tribute to the festival’s necessity. The founder of the Open House Global is Victoria Thornton, who has since authored Open House London: An Exclusive Glimpse Inside 100 of the Most Extraordinary Buildings in London. Her primary focus when starting this architectural bonanza was to use the appeal of free entry to some of London’s most well-known buildings often clouded in mystery, to encourage the public to enjoy the beautiful, impressive architectural feats that London has consistently produced over the years. It worked – to this day, Open House London appeals to many visitors and acts as a testimony to the skills culminated by architects, developers, engineers and contractors.
Though the event is entirely free, it is also over one weekend only so visiting absolutely everything is just unachievable unless you have both the ability to take a quick power nap in your room at Marble Arch Hotel London as well as superhuman speed. But not to worry – here are some guidelines to follow that will ensure you make the most out of your trip without feeling hard done by or as if you are missing out.
Download the app
Technology does great things for architecture, we know, but it is not just through their hi-tech computer software, the digitalisation of their files or their spreadsheets! The Open House app takes this whole architecture festival to the next level by being available for download. Just like the information and events it is helping you navigate, it is completely free to download in relevant app stores to your devices.
The app outlines the major events happening in general, as well as a comprehensive list of all the buildings open for viewing. It offers a personalised GPS option whereby it shows things happening near you. Using the distance feature on the app and if there is not something you are visiting to see in particular or a theme you are trying to follow, then you could even pick a direction to walk in and just pop in along the way. Better yet, for every building, talk or event you attend, the app offers invaluable information in extensive detail to make sure you know what is happening at the time or even allowing you to recap your day once you are back in your hotel near Oxford Street, London.
Purchase the guide
Available for pre-order at present, with delivery happening throughout August, the printed Open House 2019 guide is essentially a slightly more comprehensive version of what you get from the app, but without requiring mobile data and without offering the personalised distance details. More than that, though, it is a keepsake item. For a lot of people who come back year after year and intend on coming for years to come, it adds to their stack and acts as a lovely comparative collectable to display in your home or on your bookshelf.
For only £8.50, you will have this sturdy, well-made guide for long after the experience Open House London fades and you need reminders of all the buildings, talks and events you had the pleasure of attending. It details everything, so it can be really helpful to page through before you plot your route around London. You can pick out what seems the most interesting, what you missed out on in previous years, what is new this year, or even focus on what you know the least about – this guide is indispensable to the weekend. And it works without a battery!
Make a personalised itinerary
As has been made obvious, it is not possible to do absolutely everything on offer, if mainly because some places would take you too long to walk or tube between without enough hours in the day. So, you are best choosing your field and building yourself an itinerary that matches the kinds of things you are interested in.
For instance, if your interest lies in social housing, you would be better suited to viewing the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate housing complex than Freemasons Hall, the United Grand Lodge of England and the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England. Or, if you are taking more of a tourist approach, you might want to check out the National Theatre over the Park Royal Fire Station. They are all equally fascinating, but the only way you can maximise your experience is through compartmentalising your days. So get working on a list of the buildings you desperately want to see, then plot a route using the app and the guide to help you.
The Citymapper app is not linked to Open House London, but it is an essential tool for getting around London. If you want to make it to all the places on your list, using Citymapper shows you all the quickest routes. What makes this app unique is that it takes into account traffic, bus routes and also calculates the difference between walking slightly further and getting a direct tube, versus getting on at the nearest station and changing. This app is a game-changer when it comes to getting around London and will save you loads of time that ought to be spent exploring buildings rather than looking for them or travelling to them.