Posted on 20th September 2012 by Jeni Hoskin
It has been 20 years since Open-City was set up as an independent, not-for-profit architecture organisation. The organisation occupies a unique space in the cultural life of London, at the convergence of people, places and architectural practice. Its best-known initiative is the Open House London annual event, with which the organisation began in 1992.
The early 1990s were a difficult time for architects, not least because of the economic recession at that time. In addition, there was no government department to represent architecture, only a Department for National Heritage. Attitudes have changed since then, and Open House London has played a role in fostering new architectural talent through the years, in helping young architectural practices to reach a wider audience and gaining the profession a higher profile with influencers, stakeholders and indeed future clients.
Over the last couple of decades, Open House's event programme charted the progress of numerous up and coming practices that later garnered prestigious awards. For instance, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) first entered the programme with Jeremy Melvin's apartment in 1995 and this year features the RIBA and BCO award winning Angel Building. David Adjaye's first building to be part of the programme was CABE's office refurbishment back in 2001, this weekend you can see both Ed's Shed and RIBA award winning Rivington Place. In 2004, de Rijke Marsh Morgan (dRMM) showcased Kingsdale School and this year Clapham Manor Primary School (RIBA award 2010). Penoyre & Prasad presented their Millennium Centre in 1997 and in 2012, the award-winning design of Richard Desmond Children's Eye Centre at Moorfields. Haworth Tompkins first took part with the Coin Street Housing in 2007, while this year's showcase includes their award-winning development of the London Library.
And this tradition continues today. This year, we are offering a platform to the next generation of architects, such as Duggan Morris (16a Kings Grove), Zuber Architecture (13 Kingsley Place), David Kohn Architects (The White Building) and Carl Turner Architects (Slip House).
Under the theme of the ‘changing face of London’ different projects and events reflect the huge transformation that has taken place and is happening in the city.
The Open House engineering programme, supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers, showcases the vital role of civil engineers in building, maintaining and transforming the capital’s infrastructure and built environment. Major transport projects include London Kings' Cross Station, Emirates Airline Cable Car, Canary Wharf and Bond Street Crossrail Station construction sites, and a discussion of the proposed new airport for London on the ICE Hoo Peninsula boat tour.
Supported by the Landscape Institute, there are nearly 50 landscape projects in the programme. Each one is an example of how investment in landscapes is changing the face of London – socially, environmentally and economically. From large-scale public realm projects to small-scale community-led edible landscapes, highlights include The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and the transformation of Granary Square, Leicester Square and Exhibition Road.
Expert-led walks, events and openings also look at the transformation of East London and the Lea Valley. Join environmental historian Dr Jim Clifford and regeneration expert Ralph Ward on their walk Beyond the Olympic Park – the Lower Lea Valley from Hackney Wick to Leamouth. Or, visit The White Building, where architects will be leading hourly tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and the London Legacy Development Corporation will be giving a slideshow on the legacy for the Park and surrounding communities after the Games.
Open House offers a unique chance to discover all about low carbon solutions through activities and open buildings. You will be able to see measures in action, speak to experts and find out how to implement eco changes in your own home. Highlights include retrofit Bertram Street Low Energy Victorian Terrace where carbon emissions have been reduced by 77%. At Lend Lease’s HQ at 20 Triton Street, visit the green roof, which is home to London’s largest ‘insect hotel’ for a commercial building.
So, celebrate this special year with us and grab this once-a-year chance to see behind-the-scenes of the capital's familiar and lesser-known landmarks and experience architecture in the flesh.