Dezeen Magazine

Open House London bike tour

Open House London responds to "fiendish challenge" of coronavirus with video tours, cycle rides and model kits

With Open House London starting tomorrow, Dezeen has teamed up with the festival to present a video tour of a different building or space each day from 19 to 27 September.

The films are part of the festival's move to "massively diversify" its programme in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted the number of buildings able to throw their doors open to the public.

"Fewer buildings but far more other events"

"The 2020 Open House festival will be a different kind of celebration than previous years," said Phineas Harper, director of charity Open City that organises Open House London.

"There'll be fewer buildings open but far more other events instead."

Open House London's building model activity packs
Model kits feature in Open House London's activity packs. Top image: a cycle tour

This year's programme will feature a series of videos specially shot by Jim Stephenson, Edward Bishop and Will Scott with producers Ella McCarron and Nyima Murry, each featuring a "rarely published" London building.

These will include overlooked historic landmarks, lesser-known contemporary projects and open spaces.

One of the videos will be published on Dezeen, which is Open House London's main media partner, each day from 19 to 27 September.

Open House London's The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs book
The festival has published a book called The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs

Buildings featured include Walters Way, a council-housing project by German architect Walter Segal, and Neasden Temple, a 1995 Hindu place of worship built in traditional style.

Crystal Palace Skatepark by Canvas and Dalston Curve Garden, a community green space by Muf Architects, are also featured.

"Not all about buildings"

"It's not all about buildings," said Harper. "There's a number of films in the programme exploring outdoor spaces and landscape architecture."

In addition, this year's festival will feature socially distanced tours, cycle trips and building visits, a new website with downloadable children's activities, a range of self-assembly building models.

Phineas Harper
Open City director Phineas Harper

"We've known since the start of the pandemic that outdoor events are an easy way to allow social distancing and reduce the chance of transmissions," Harper explained. "But the lockdown also really affirmed the value of outdoor public space."

"It made total sense to programme more events outside this year, celebrating landscape architecture and making visitors feel more comfortable at the same time."

"A fiendish challenge"

There is also a book, The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs, featuring essays by contributors including artist Verity-Jane Keefe, architect Charles Holland and novelist Hanif Kureishi.

"Open House is a festival all about making London more open and accessible," said Harper, admitting that pulling this off amid constantly shifting restrictions has been "a fiendish challenge."

Crystal Palace Skatepark by Canvas
A still from the Crystal Palace Skatepark video

"Our strategy was to massively diversify the programme so that whatever Covid-19 threw at us in September, we'd have multiple ways of celebrating the urban landscape of London," added Harper, the former deputy director of London's Architecture Foundation, who joined Open City earlier this year.

"We had to tear up the rule book and start from scratch."

All photography is courtesy of Open City.

Open House London takes place at venues across London and online from 19 to 27 September. Videos will be published on Dezeen each day during the festival. See Dezeen Events Guide for details of more architecture and design events.