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Open House London: the AJ's top ten must-see buildings

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The AJ’s editors pick their favourites buildings from the hundreds of properties which will open their doors for Open House London between 20-21 September

The Royal College of Physicians 11 St Andrews Place NW1 by Denys Lasdun

Royal College of Physicians by Denys Lasdun. Image: RCP

Cherished by anyone who has visited it – including those who have attended the AJ’s More Homes Better Homes and FootprintLive conferences there – the 1964 Grade I-listed Royal College of Physicians, overlooking Regent’s Park, is arguably Denys Lasdun’s best building. The modernist gem, with its glowing mosaic-clad exterior, has a dramatic, intriguing and surprisingly light interior. Finished beautifully, the landmark includes the unexpected Censors Room at its heart – a jaw-dropping chamber lined in 400-year-old Spanish oak panelling, which began life in the college’s Warwick Lane building in the 1670s. It remains one of the capital’s most important post-war buildings. A must see.

Richard Waite, AJ news editor

Royal College of General Practitioners, 30 Euston Square NW1 2FB by Arthur Bereford Pite

Royal College of General Practitioners by Arthur Bereford Pite. Image: Jeaneaod

The name of Arthur Bereford Pite (1861-1934) was new to me when, a couple of years ago, the architect, Craig Hamilton, mentioned him as one of his heroes. I have since visited most of his buildings among which the Royal College of General Practitioners ranks as a highlight. Here, Pite deploys a Greek classicism indebted to C R Cockerell’s work but given an idiosyncratic handling that is quite his own. Along with the Euston Arch and St Pancras New Church it belonged to a triumvirate of Greek classical buildings that addressed each other across Euston Road. The proponents of the redevelopment of Euston Station would do well to pay a visit.

Ellis Woodman, AJ critic at large

Crystal Palace Subway, Crystal Palace Parade SE19 1LG by EM Barry

Crystal Palace Subway, Crystal Palace Parade SE19 1LG by EM Barry.

In SE19 hopes and fears were raised in equal measure in February by ZhongRong Group’s improbable proposal to erect a new Crystal Palace on the site of Paxton’s original. With the seeming demise of that scheme, it’s back to square one for the Friends of Crystal Palace Subway (Black box, AJ 30.05.13), who were hoping a smidgen of the vaunted £500 million investment might go to rehabilitate the splendid Victorian fan-vaulted red and cream brick underpass that conducted visitors to the palace precincts in its heyday. Its neglect is testimony to Bromley Council’s execrable stewardship of the site.

Alan Gordon, AJ production editor

House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek Street W1D 4NQ by Joseph Pearce

House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek Street W1D 4NQ by Joseph Pearce. Image: The House of St Barnabas

Normally operating as a private members club raising funds to help the homeless gain employment, Soho’s House of St Barnabas is an exceptionally fine Georgian townhouse at 1 Greek Street, which you can visit on the Sunday of the Open House London weekend.

The groundplan of the Grade I-listed house and Rococo decoration dates from the mid-1700s and has barely altered since then, despite various threats over the centuries, including vibrations from the recent Crossrail tunnelling. A recent refurbishment by Irish architect and designer Grainne Weber has added luxurious and contemporary touches in keeping with the club’s modern cocktail-sipping purpose.

Tours, which are on the hour, are available by emailing mary@hosb.org.uk (pre-booking only). The last tour is at 4pm.

Will Hurst, AJ acting deputy editor

Lloyd’s of London, One Lime Street EC3M 7HA by Richard Rogers Partnership

Lloyd’s of London, One Lime Street EC3M 7HA by Richard Rogers Partnership. Image:Martin Charles

There’s one extremely important thing you can do at Open House and not any other time, and that’s get into Lloyd’s of London as a civilian. There are more reasons to do this than ever now that the owners are likely to sell up imminently. Visiting, you can see how this ostensibly extremely high-tech building is tailored to its very old-school capitalist clients, via everything from the Lutine Bell to the ‘Room’, a Kubrickian transition from Constructivist oil rig to 18th century dining hall. Remarkable as it is from the street, there is no substitute for entering Lloyd’s to explore this disturbing, fascinating puzzle.

Owen Hatherley, AJ columnist

Walters Way, 8 and 10 Walters Way SE23 3LH by Walter Segal

Walters Way, 8 and 10 Walters Way SE23 3LH by Walter Segal. Image: Phil Sayer.

This street of self-build houses is as relevant today as when it was built in the 1970s. Lewisham Council’s progressive attitude towards planning resulted in this attempt to solve the housing crisis, in which those on the council’s housing waiting list were given a chance to build their own homes. Segal’s timber-framed construction method required minimal building experience and could easily be adapted to meet occupants’ individual needs. These homes have lasted through the decades – one house has been extended in size, while many have had their internal layouts adapted.

Laura Mark, AJ technical reporter

Town Hall Hotel and Apartments, Patriot Square E2 9NF by Rare Architecture

Town Hall Hotel and Apartments, Patriot Square E2 9NF by Rare Architecture. Image: Sue Barr

Rare Architecture won numerous awards in 2011 for its conversion of the 1909 Bethnal Green Town Hall into a five-star hotel with 98 rooms and serviced apartments. The £17 million redevelopment of the Grade II-listed building incorporated a laser-cut aluminium ‘skin’ that masks a new floor added to the existing structure.

The conversion retained historic features such as lavish Art Deco interiors added in the 1930s. The 2011 RIBA Awards judges said: ‘There is an otherworldliness to the ensemble; different genres and elements drift past one another in a kind of architectural reverie.’

Sarah Townsend, AJ publications editor

Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall SW1Y 5EW by Charles Barry

Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall SW1Y 5EW by Charles Barry. Image: Janet Hall/RIBA Library Photographs Collection

There may be a few AJ readers who have never visited the Reform Club. If so, Open House is the moment to enjoy the architectural treat of Charles Barry’s masterpiece. This is a club without corridors, instead planned around a central glazed space. The manipulation of space and light is achieved through mirrors and glass screens, while the palazzo inspiration is accompanied by technical innovation. Those open fires apparently have no chimneys, but they work. Don’t worry about misogyny, by the way. There have been women members at the club for 35 years.

Paul Finch, AJ editorial director

Tree House, 200 Jubilee Street E1 3BP by 6a Architects

Tree House, 200 Jubilee Street E1 3BP by 6a. Image: 6A Architects

As well as the chance to visit London’s most famous architectural highlights, Open House gives us the chance to get inside smaller contemporary works. On a visit to the Tree House you will not only get to see an RIBA London Award-winning extension, but also take a peek inside the house of architecture critic and AJ contributor Rowan Moore. This timber-clad addition, arranged around a now-dead tree, demonstrates what can be achieved on a relatively modest budget.

Tom Ravenscroft, AJBL editor

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace N4 3JP by David Hughes Architects

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace N4 3JP by David Hughes Architects. Image: Philip Vine

The Park Theatre is a sparkling retrofit of a 1970s office building near Finsbury Park underground station. After visiting more than 35 theatres across the UK, David Hughes Architects carved two intimate performance spaces and a café out of the building’s 1,200m2 of space. With a tight budget and vigilant approach to future operating costs, the architects introduced large skylights to the performance halls to reduce daytime lighting loads. Exposed brick walls, colourful LED lighting and found theatrical objects add character to the interiors.

Hattie Hartman, AJ sustainability editor

St Augustine’s Tower, The Narroway, off Mare Street, Hackney

St Augustine's Tower, Hackney. Image: Ewan Munro

It’s easy to miss St Augustine’s tower, the Grade I-listed remains of a 16th century church set in a little green just off Mare Street. However, this tower – one of the oldest surviving buildings in Hackney – is definitely worth a visit for the chance to access the clock chamber and see the inner workings of the church’s still-functioning clock which dates to the late 16th or early 17th century. Visitors will also be able to take the stairs to the roof of the tower which provides great views over the much-changed parish of this little church.

Rakesh Ramchurn, AJ editorial assistant

Open House in the AJ Buidlings Library

See 80 buildings taking part in Open House London weekend

Some of the properties taking part in Open House London require you to book in advance to visit and there is a ballot for admission for certain locations. For further details and opening times, go to: www.openhouselondon.org.uk

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