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In partnership: Open House London and the AJ

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Open House gives us a window into other people’s homes, writes Emily Booth

Last weekend my partner climbed into my parents’ attic, pulled back an old blue and white checked oilcloth and carried out my grandparents’ table. It had sat in their kitchen for more than half a century, and it had spent several years after that waiting for a home.  

The table is an Isokon Marcel Breuer 1930s classic. Seventy years on and the colour is mellow, the curved edges are comfortable and the surface is smooth. We love it for the memories, and because it is a triumph of good design. This table, in its new space, has changed the way we use our kitchen (it has replaced a clunky, too-high breakfast bar, so we can now sit down to family meals). It has changed utterly the way we feel about our room.

If that’s the impact the right piece of furniture in the right place can have, what more can a well-designed building do for your mood? Architects shape space, and for all the gorgeous pictures of line and form it’s the experience of being in those spaces that is most valuable – of feeling how they flow and come alive when people are living or working in them.

That’s why Open House weekend (22-23 September) is so exciting. Once a year you can walk into private spaces, for free, and understand why they work – or why they don’t. You can stare and snoop and admire or tut. You can experience why that staircase turns here, why that window is there, why the angle of a roof is just so. You can learn and draw inspiration. You can feel.

Architects’ Journal has teamed up with Open House to provide a taster of what’s on show. With this week’s AJ, the Open House London guide lists a huge range of buildings, from clubs to schools, government offices to houses. There’s a wealth of stuff to visit. And we have three pairs of tickets to give away to visit buildings including the Trellick Tower.

In next week’s issue we’ll be running the AJ’s pick of the best Open House buildings to celebrate 20 years of the organisation. Everyone has their favourite, the ‘must see that’ building they ring in red. For me it’s 2 Willow Road (pictured above). What’s yours?

Emily Booth is group special projects editor at the AJ


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