Nose around for good ideas

Open House this weekend is your chance to look inside other people’s homes
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BedZED in Surrey
© Bedzed/Peabody Trust
BedZED in Surrey is still the best example of a sustainable development in the UK
For one weekend every year, hundreds of buildings not usually accessible to the public throw open their doors.

This weekend, you will be able to go on a glorious snoop through 700 buildings, from private homes created by famous architects, to new housing developments; embassies, banks, medical and educational centres; the Olympic site (a hot favourite this year); and icons such the Gherkin (always top-billing) and the Barbican.

Famous historic buildings such as Dr Johnson’s 18th century house in Gough Square, EC4; or Middle Temple nearby are also open.

'London's architecture is some of the most diverse in the world'

There are plenty of special walks in each borough, such as a tour of some Wren churches in the City, or the Sponge Trail of Eco Buildings in the East End (led by members of an eco-network of young professionals called Sponge).

London’s architecture is some of the most diverse in the world. Borough by borough, during Open House weekend, there is a great sense of Londoners out on the street enjoying their city. While for most venues you can just turn up, a few do require pre-booking and all have cut-off times for visiting, so check on the website.
Consort Road, SE15
© Ravenscroft
A bath sliding under a bed at 15 and a half Consort Road, SE15


15 and a half Consort Road, SE15

A great name for a house, this one has been seen on Grand Designs so will be very popular. Even though it was built on a very difficult brownfield site with a really tight budget, Richard Paxton architects rose to the challenge and made an amazing opening roof and bath that slides under the bed. Shortlisted for the RIBA Awards in 2006, the house’s sustainable features include use of wasteland, recycled material and lots of innovative ideas.

Bonus: the owner/architect will be on site all weekend.
Open: Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry on a first-come basis, with last entry at 4.45pm. Maximum four groups of five at one time.
Nearest rail station: Peckham Rye or Queens Road.

Calabria Road, N5
© Nick Kane
The vertical garden at 83 Calabria Road, N5

83 Calabria Road, N5

Waghorn Gwynne architects created a vertical garden around a double-height library space to the rear of a remodelled Victorian house. The use of light and space is inventive, impressive and creative.

Open: Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Last entry is at 4.30pm.
A maximum of six people at one time.
Nearest Tube/rail station: King’s Cross St Pancras.

Shoreditch Prototype House, 4 Crooked Billet Yard, E2

This is a really interesting low-energy house, by Cox Bulleid Architects, on a brownfield site built this year. Hidden away in Shoreditch, it is designed to be a model for homes of the future, using space well but retaining the idea of independent housing. The solar façade has evergreen shading and the frame is lightweight timber and steel.

Open: Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry on a first-come, first-served basis, with last entry at 4.30pm.
Nearest Tube station: Old Street or Liverpool Street.

73 Chester Road, N19

A semi-detached Victorian house built in 1870 that was lovingly transformed in 2007 to make it work in the 21st century - reducing its carbon footprint by 60 per cent. Sustainable features include walls internally insulated; sash windows overhauled and double glazed and draught-stripped, high-performance windows, solar panels, a solar pipe; wood burning stove and water-saving techniques. If you own an old house, this is a handy study of what you might be able to do - and how it will look - to save energy.

Chester Road, N19
Chester Road, N19, has been transformed inside to reduce its carbon footprint
Open: Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Tours on the hour, on a first-come basis. Last tour starts at 5pm. Maximum of six people per tour.
Nearest Tube station: Archway.


BedZED, 24 Helios Road, Wallington, Surrey

Peabody Trust’s urban eco-village with 100 homes and 10 workspaces is a pioneer in eco design. It is designed to reduce residents’ energy and water usage, with roofs that have photovoltaic panels topped with distinctive cowls that circulate air. BedZED is still in front as the most comprehensive example of sustainable development in the UK. A Civic Trust award winner, it was designed by Bill Dunster Architects.

Open: Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm. Hourly guided tours. Entry must be pre-booked through Open House. Maximum of 15 on tours.
Nearest Tube/rail stations: Hackbridge, Mitcham Junction.

Dog Kennel Hill Apartments, SE22

DKH, as this RIBA award-winner is known, is a new-build, private housing development with 19 flats. It uses louvres, mesh panelling and stone gabions. John Smart Architects 2007.

Open: Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry is on a first-come basis. Last entry is at 4.30pm.
Nearest Tube/rail stations: Elephant & Castle, Denmark Hill and East Dulwich.
Coin Street neighbourhood centre, SE1
© Edmund Sumner/View
Coin Street neighbourhood centre in SE1


Barnardo’s Village, Tanners Lane, Barkingside, Ilford

If you always heard the word Barnardo’s but didn’t know what it is, visit the village created in 1870 by the Victorian philanthropist. By Barnardo’s death in 1905, there were 70 cottages on 60 acres. The church is the only remaining children’s church with little pews and child-themed stained-glass windows.

Entry: partial entry to one of the original cottages and Children’s Church.
Nearest Tube/rail stations: Barkingside and Ilford.


Coin Street neighbourhood centre, 108 Stamford Street, SE1

Forming the fourth side of Iroko Housing Co-operative, this newly built 37,700sq ft centre includes a day nursery, resources for older people, parents, young people and children, and conference and meeting spaces. Using the same combination of untreated timber and painted steel on the residential side but with the southern side incorporating solar “chimneys” within a multicoloured façade, it was completed by architects Haworth Tompkins last year. Coin Street is a big part of the regeneration of the South Bank.

Barnardo's Village in Ilford
Barnardo's Village and Children's Church, Tanners Lane, Ilford
Open: tours on Sunday, 3pm and 4pm. You must pre-book through Open House (
Nearest Tube/DLR stations: Southwark, Waterloo, Blackfriars and Waterloo East.

Donnybrook Quarter, Junction of Parnell Road and Old Ford Road, E3

This is an award-winning example of urban planning where a whole “quarter” has been made by Peter Barber architects. It has been designed to create a buzzing public space, surrounded by buildings. But does it work? Judge for yourself.

Open: Saturday noon to 4pm. Regular architect-led tours. Last tour starts at 3.30pm.
Nearest Tube/DLR stations: Bow Road and Bow Church.

Open House: 20-21 September. For the full programme visit

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