Friday, 26 September 2014

Open House 2014 - Day One

Open House London is something I've taken part in for the last three years. The basic idea behind it is that hundreds of buildings around London, many of which you can't normally go into, open up for the day for free. The amount of effort and things you can see in the buildings varies massively - some let you basically wonder around as you please, some take you on a guided tour, some just let you go into one room. Places I've visited with it in past years have included Lloyds, Battersea power station, the Bank of England and many more!

This year I suddenly ended up with both days in the weekend free so we ended up making two days out of it. This is recommended if there's a few you want to go to - Open House is really really tiring, especially if you want to go to a big player you'll probably end up getting there pretty early so you don't have to queue for hours and hours, and the day does become exhausting even if you're sticking to the same area. It's always a good day though, so off we went...

Our first stop was 30 St Mary Axe more commonly known as The Gherkin. I've wanted to visit the gherkin for years but have always been put off by the absolutely enormous queues. I suspected that this year the queues would be separated a bit by some people going to the cheesegrater instead and it looks like I was correct - we got there at 0730 for a 0800 opening, and were in by about quarter past.

Honestly though - I'm glad I've never queued for it when the queues have been hours long. The amount you get to see is pretty disappointing. You're basically shepherded up to the viewing platform at the top, which has a good view, don't get me wrong, but totally not worth all that effort - especially because the Heron tower is right next to it which gives you a view from higher up, and more importantly in my opinion gives you a view of the top of the gherkin which is really cool looking. That was literally all they let us see which I was pretty disappointed by.

Next up we went to the Crossrail construction site in Canary Wharf. I wasn't sure what to think of this one before I arrived. They have three sites open, but the other two were prebook only, so I assumed Canary Wharf's wouldn't be all that interesting. I was completely wrong, there is a huge site that you have access to and we spent quite a while here. It's really interesting getting to see areas like the platforms, the lobby, the retail areas etc before they're complete. Even going down the shell of what will become the escalators was really interesting, as was the view to the partially completed gardens. I found this site really interesting and it exceeded my expectations significantly. I hope this site is open again next year as well as it'll be really interesting to see it develop.

Next up we somehow ended up in the RICA's building. Honestly, we wondered into this purely because we saw the green banner outside and there was no queue. We literally googled what it was as we were going inside so we had no expectations at and just happened to be passing it on the way to something else. They had made a fair bit of effort with this tour though, it was a guided tour lasting around 20 minutes and showed you a couple of rooms and the roof garden.

Our final stop was Portcullis House which is essentially offices for members of parliament. This was a surprisingly high security building and allowed you a fair bit of freedom. Obviously most of the rooms were locked but you were free to wonder around two floors of it as you wished which is something I always enjoy. There were a few displays and talks on a big variety of topics, and I ended up getting free parliament post-it notes and highlighter pen flowers which is of course a bonus! If we weren't so knackered by this point we would definitely have enjoyed the talks more and seen more of the displays as they'd put a lot of effort into it. Another interesting point I found was how in all the portraits of Tony Blair they've made him look hilariously sinister.

Overall, day one of Open House covered a lot more than expected before we became tired and had to give in! Check out day two here next Friday to find out the next set of buildings visited :)


  1. What a lovely weekend. Sounds very interesting. I like Open days too, especially go to Heritage Open Days, but missed it this year.

    Anca @ ancaslifestyle | UK


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