diamond geezer

 Saturday, September 15, 2007

London Open House (day 1): What a glorious sunny day for a trek around central London. I managed to tick off 11 of this year's Open House venues along the way, and without either my camera or mobile phone's batteries quite running out. Around every corner, so it seemed, there was another green banner, another willing grinning volunteer and another lost-looking middle aged couple with an A-Z. There's no other weekend quite like it. Same again tomorrow?

Also visited:
Shoreditch Town Hall: Vast labyrinthine civic warren, abandoned to local government reorganisation in 1965 but currently being restored. Elton John held his 60th birthday party in the main assembly hall photos.
Hoxton Hall: Another old music hall, this time a thriving local performance space, complete with wooden upper balcony and saucy crimson drapes.
The Johnson Building: Bright new office development in Hatton Garden built around a central six-storey atrium (which is apparently lovely in the sunshine, but the roof doesn't half make a racket when it rains).
Haberdashers' Hall: Modern Smithfield HQ of City livery company (who made their fortune out of hats), set around a peaceful cloistered courtyard photos.
Wax Chandlers Hall: Rather more compact home of a smaller City livery company (who made their fortune out of beeswax and candles), where I squeezed into the back of a tour when several pre-booked people failed to turn up. A most entertaining half hour tour & talk.
St Mary-le-Bow Church: High church in Cheapside, within the range of whose bells all true Londoners are (allegedly) born. The interior looked rather more modern than I was expecting, especially the stained glass, but the crypt apparently dates back to 1080.
posted 18:00

20 Fleet StreetTo the City, for free entry to two very different corporate entrance lobbies. 20 Fleet Street is the former home of Express Newspapers photos, and the foyer is an Art Deco masterpiece photos. The floor is an elegant ripple of black and blue marble. A central clock (very 30s) hides a tight elliptical spiral staircase. To either side are two large metal murals etched in silver and gold photos. And the ceiling looks like an upturned silver lemon squeezer, with several ridges radiating from a central drum. The foyer is abuzz with photographers, snapping with creative fury at every surface and every angle. You can't go wrong with a shot of this building in your portfolio.

It's a different story at 100 Victoria Embankment, the newly renovated HQ of Unilever plc. The curved facade may be the Edwardian original, but builders have scooped out the centre of the old building and replaced it with seven floors of modern offices arranged round a gleaming airy atrium photosphotos. There's too long to wait for one of the guided tours, but the company are doling out free tea and ice cream in the lower mezzanine cafe. Free Magnum and cuppa, a perfect mid afternoon treat (also available tomorrow).
posted 15:04

four tube carriages above Great Eastern StreetVillage Underground: A rather less middle aged queue here than at many other Open House venues. That's because this is Shoreditch, and the attraction is four tube carriages hoisted up onto the old Broad Street viaduct photos to be used as artists' studios. Entrance is up a narrow iron spiral staircase, with the first two Jubilee stock vehicles resting at the top. Up again, on top of two glass containers photos, to the higher pair of studios photos. Inside we find not straphanging commuters but graphic artists' workspaces. A laptop here, a banana tree there, and laminate worktops everywhere. There are fine views down over the rooftops and building sites of Shoreditch photos and, best of all, no unexpected delays due to broken down trains or engineering works.
posted 13:37

Wilton's Music HallWilton's Music Hall: The world's oldest surviving Music Hall lurks up a side alley behind a terrace of houses off Cable Street, E1. It's somehow survived wartime bombing, slum clearance and woodworm, and owes a debt of thanks to Sir John Betjeman for keeping the bulldozers at bay. As you step into the dimly lit auditorium you can easily imagine East End Victorian singing stars stepping out onto the stage to rouse the audience with a chorus of Daisy Daisy or Down At The Old Bull And Bush. Arched alcoves around the crumbling walls have been lit with delicate fairy lights, and there are three recently uncovered golden murals on the rear wall of the upper balcony. Ornate floral relief arches span the ceiling, and the spotlight shining on the central rose quivers every time someone steps on a supporting floorboard below photos. It's an astonishingly atmospheric relic of a bygone age and, cor blimey guvnor, it's still open for the occasional performance (Mozart's next). Restoration continues, and another £3½million is needed if the building is to be saved for future generations. I've just spotted the office geek wandering outside - I hope he didn't spot me and think the same thing...
posted 12:50

Kings PlaceKings Place: A brand new mixed-use development just north of King's Cross, beside a backwater basin on the Regent's Canal. It's a building site at the moment (due to open 2008), so I've just had to get togged up in hardhat and fluorescent jacket for the tour. Also joining us were the world's smelliest man and half a party of German tourists. The first floor and above will be the Guardian's new offices, while down below a new public cultural zone is taking shape. We got to stand on a temporary platform 18m above the new chamber music concert hall, and in the canalside rotunda that's planned to become a cafe/bistro. The outer facade is already complete - a unique design of wavy curved glass. Elsewhere there were blokes working, carrying pipes and drinking tea, even on a Saturday. They'll have to get cracking to get the rest of the building ready, and perfect, on time.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream