The programme for the 2023 Open House London has been released this week.
And this year, with Croydon being London’s Borough of Culture, there’s just nine events or buildings, public and private, in the borough listed as being open for tours and visits from the curious. That’s thought to be fewer than any previous year.
The organisers of the Borough of Culture tried to encourage building owners to sign up to take part in Open House festival, although they didn’t try very hard: they just whacked a few brief details and a link on their not-very-good website.
Open House Festival is a two-week celebration of London’s homes, architecture and neighbourhoods. “You can get inside some of London’s best-known buildings, as well as some of its best-kept secrets,” say the organisers. In Croydon, it is Open House that is a virtual secret.
“Open House Festival celebrates our curiosity for what happens inside the buildings that we walk past every day; a festival that works to give all Londoners the chance to learn from the city’s best architecture and the people behind it.”
The Open House Festival is led by a community of Londoners who run open days at buildings they either own, work or care for. Visitors can explore the full festival programme and all the different open buildings through the festival website, where they can sign-up and book on to tours of buildings or drop-in to openings and events.
This year the festival will take place from September 6-17.
Along with open buildings, the festival has a programme of urban walks and tours, and, the organisers say, “is one of the best ways to learn about London’s history, architecture and the social significance of the diverse neighbourhoods of London”.
Listed among the many highlights for 2023 are such gems as “1923 Northern Line Extension stations”, starting at Golders Green Underground (“A tour that contrasts the before and after of the architecture of the 1922 Northern line extension, examining the impact on the existing terminus at Golders Green as well as the new station architectural vernacular created by Stanley Heaps”).
Then there’s Hogarth’s House at Chiswick (“Early 18th Century red brick home of artist William Hogarth extended significantly c1749-1764. A 2020 extension adds a curved glass wall in the shape of Hogarth’s Line of Beauty. Delightful walled garden containing famous ancient mulberry tree”).
There is also the London Fire Brigade Memorial Hall on the Albert Embankment (“LFB’s Grade II-listed Memorial Hall, part of the LFB’s Headquarters, opened in 1937. The hall is rarely seen by the public and contains stunning large memorials by Gilbert Bayes commemorating firefighters lost protecting London”).
There are potential events and visits closer to home: there’s a picnic in the park at the Crystal Palace Bowl, the carefully restored Crystal Palace Subway, there’s a tour around the praised architecture of public housing at Cressingham Gardens, and the splendour of Streatham’s Pullman Court flats (from 1936: “Grade II*-listed buildings, modern movement style with balcony walkways and period internal features”. Just don’t ask about the service charges…).
Croydon has a couple of examples listed by the organisers among the “highlights”: the brutalist South Norwood Library and the Grade II-listed Victorian Stanley Halls arts centre, also in South Norwood.
Kenley Aerodrome is offering a tour of their Battle of Britain bunkers and runways, while there are also guided events offered by the East Croydon Community Organisation and the Friends of Love Lane Green. Shirley Windmill, Croydon Minster, the Whitgift Almshouses and the Museum of Croydon are all open to visitors on set dates.
But unlike previous years, there’s no opportunity to take a snoop around the inside of Fisher’s Folly, one of the most expensive (per square foot) office blocks ever to be built… even Croydon Council itself has failed to enter into the spirit of the Borough of Culture. Which Croydon Council is supposedly “organising”.
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