Saturday, 2 October 2010

Open House London - my take

Hot tip: This is a long post by my standards.  But it is of what I consider an exceptional day out in London.  It's things like this that make me love this place so I hope you like it too.  Sorry if I send you to sleep with it!


September 18th and 19th was Open House London Weekend. Essentially, it means a lot of buildings (public, private and personal ones) are open to the public. Some require booking in advance, some tickets are balloted and some are just walk up. All are free.

Knowing I wanted to take part but not knowing where to start, I was left wondering the streets of the City of London, guided by an iPhone app telling me what was near etc. It was a wonderful day of rambling and I’m really pleased with what I saw (I didn’t head out again on the Sunday, instead doing other things)

In all, I took in five buildings; Leadenhall Markets, the Lloyds Building, Royal Courts of Justice, Daily Express building and the Maughan Library at Kings College.These buildings provided a real mix of architecture, age and purpose but I really enjoyed them all. Favourite building was the Lloyd’s Building whilst favourite experience was the Royal Courts of Justice.

Starting with the Leadenhall markets, here is what I saw:

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There have been markets on this site since the fourteenth century, but these buildings are from the late nineteenth century.

Next up, and purely by chance, was the Lloyds Building. It’s a bit divisive as it’s a modern, semi unfinished looking building in my mind. Very different to many in its surrounds, but after going in, I really liked it. The market and 11th floors were open. Whilst the majority of the building is very modern, there were touches of old school as well. The bell is now purely ceremonial. Favourite parts include; the exposed escalators (reminds me of mechano, or maybe mechano reminds me of exposed escalators?), the glass exterior lifts, the views over London and the banquet hall. The banquet room is in a sandstone sub building on the 11th floor, and old school sanctuary of its own. Chandeliers, pretty silverware and tiffany blue on the ceiling, as if I wasn’t going to like it!!

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Next in line was the former Daily Express offices at 120 Fleet Street.  All the papers have moved on from Fleet Street now but this building retains its flamboyant foyer and facade.  Sadly I didn't get a pic of the oustide (I should have, it is really impressive) but I did get a few shots inside.  I especially liked the silver sunburst ceiling and the black, blue and green floor.  And who doesn't want a snake handrail?  (Me, actually).

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The penultimate destination was the Royal Courts of Justice.  This was a great experience but my pics are limited (there are some areas you aren't allowed to snap in).  From the grand exterior and main chamber, to the ornate and historic court rooms to the grim holding cells down below.  In addition to this, they had prisoner transport vehicles on site for you to test out for size (not comfortable, at all, and I'm ok with that).

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And last but not least, the Maughan Library at Kings College.  A library of sorts has stood here for centuries and whilst it is now a college library, it was formerly the Public Records Office and the Rolls Chapel so it's held some seriously important documents in its time.  The standout part of this library is certainly the Round Reading room which my pics just don't capture.  You may recognise it from the Da Vinci Code.  The more understated parts I liked included seeing the original shelving (slate) sill in use, and that the walls are about a foot thick etc.  It was a really good way to round out the day and I'm glad I doubled back a few hundred yards for it.

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Whilst not operating under the same banner as Open House London, I know Melbourne runs a similar program about once a year.  Does your home town?  Have you been along?

1 comment:

  1. That banquet room is crazy...hard to believe it is in that building. I had no idea.

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