The doors are open as London’s Open House Festival returns to all 33 boroughs this month.

Words by Eve Herbert

Open House is a festival celebrating London’s architecture and neighbourhoods. For two weeks every September, lots of buildings not usually open to the public are set to invite us inside. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get inside and explore some of London’s most impressive buildings, as well as some of its best-kept secrets.

London's Open House Festival
Central Somers Town (2020) by Adam Khan Architects. Photo by David Grandorge.

It’s a festival that celebrates our curiosity about what happens inside the buildings that we walk past every day; a festival that works to give all Londoners the chance to learn from this city’s architecture and the people behind its architecture. A community of people who live, work, volunteer or care for these buildings contribute to the festival by opening up their building to the public for a period during the two weeks.

The Wash Houses by Wright and Wright Architects
The Wash Houses (2002) by Wright and Wright Architects. Photo by Peter Cook.
Killyon Road by Ludwig Willis Architects
Killyon Road (2020) by Ludwig Willis Architects. Photo by Kilian O’Sullivan.

You can visit areas of London you’ve never been to before or explore the parts you know really well so that you can finally get inside the buildings you’ve seen from the outside so often. All of these contributors are listed on the website so you can look through what is open. Some things you will need to book on to and others you can drop in on the day or queue.

London's Open House Festival
Tin House (2016) by Henning Stummel. Photo by Gavriil Papadiotis.

For the 30 years the festival has been running, there has been a printed guide that takes all of the buildings and places that have committed to opening by June and collates them into a printed guide. It’s a really wonderful physical object that you can use to get a sense of what we will be open for the festival. The festival website then has all of the most up to date information and all the functionality to book tours, sign-up for things you are interested in, and donate to the charity. 

East Ham Library by MICA Architects.
East Ham Library (2013) by MICA Architects. Photo by Richard Chivers.
Willmot Court by Henley Halebrown
Willmot Court (2021) by Henley Halebrown. Photo by Jim Stephenson.