[THIS WEEK] Open House London is back - pack your book and a flask, writes James Pallister
Open House London has rolled around again and there’s still plenty of time to get out your A to Zs - or GoogleMap pins - and mark up an itinerary. Most of the Open House venues are free to enter and while some require booking, for most it’s first come, first served.
The one-upmanship typical of architectural enthusiasts and eager Londoners lends itself to a Venn diagram of keenness, with organised people competing for the popular slots. In other words, massive queues. And early starts.
Being all in favour of cultural edification so long as it doesn’t impinge too much on a leisurely Saturday breakfast, I propose a tour of the more obscure and out-of-the-way attractions. Doffing a cap to this year’s theme ‘The liveable city’, it takes in some of the infrastructural delights, present and past, that makes the city just that. Hopefully the queues won’t be too severe, but you’ve been warned. Take a book and a flask.
In Dagenham you can visit the Closed Loop Recycling Plant at 16 Choats Road, where 35,000 tonnes of waste plastic bottles are recycled every year. Shifting south, hop on the River Princess cruiser from Royal Victoria Dock for a chance to see the Grade II-listed Spillers Millennium Mills and views of renovated 300-tonne steamer SS Robin in West India Quay.
In Bexley you can see the Crossness Engines House, the Grade I-listed pumping station built by Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer behind London’s Victorian sewer system. In London’s north-west you can dive deep into WWII history. Neasden’s underground bunker, used by Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet, is made of reinforced, bomb-proof concrete, 10 metres below ground.
After all this infrastructure you may want something a little more spiritual. Visit the nearby Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the first traditional Hindu
Mandir built outside India, and admire its 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble and 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone.