diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 18, 2022

A further round-up of disparate Open House visits, this weekend and last.
You never quite know what you're going to get when you approach the front door.


Open House: London Scottish House (Horseferry Road, Westminster) The Military Castoff

Within spitting distance of Channel 4's ex-HQ is an unshowy Victorian brick edifice with a large flagpole poised above the front steps. The surprise when you step inside is that the building is mostly a three-storey empty space surrounded by decorative balconies, because this was originally a drill hall for the military. The London Scottish Regiment has been based in Westminster since 1859, initially for Scots living in the capital and later for anyone who wanted to join up, so always more of a gentlemen's army than a bunch of conscripts. This is a replacement drill hall completed 40 years after the original suffered serious bomb damage, but retains many elements of the old including war memorials and a splendid wrought-iron roof.



It shouldn't still be here because in 2017 the army made a purely financial decision to move the regiment to a cheaper building round the corner, but certain high-ranking members of the royal family helped get the roof listed and the men took it on as a charitable concern. The old soldier who gave me ten minutes of his time proved a fount of knowledge, mainly because his other job is curating the regimental museum which spreads rounds the balconies on the first and second floor. Medals, cap badges, that kind of thing, but also memorabilia from the regiment's proudest boast, that they were the first territorial unit to see action in WW1 at the Battle of Messines.

In a (very) recent fit of unemotional rationalisation the army's top brass effectively killed off the regiment by merging it into the Scots Guards. I could see this was a sore point with my guide whose life was still irrevocably tied up with the regiment with whom he saw active service and which he continues to serve. If you have any fashion shows, exam sessions or private functions in need of a reasonably-priced central London venue they'd be delighted to see you here. Judging by the hatch concealing a small bar in the corner with bottles and glasses stacked up like some retro 80s themed social club, you'd be very welcome.

Open House: Walters Way (Honor Oak, Lewisham) The Self-Build Cul-De-Sac

When Lewisham council had a few scraps of awkward land up for grabs in the 1980s, they offered this site on the slopes of One Tree Hill to 13 people on the housing list who fancied building their own home. Collectively they embraced the philosophies of German architect Walter Segal, whose methods focused on combining timber frames with regular 66cm-wide panels, thereby doing away with all the 'wet trades' like bricklaying and plastering. Anyone could build a Segal house, it was just a case of bolt and screw, and here at Honor Oak it generally only took the first residents 18 months (working mainly weekends and holidays). The flexible nature of the materials allowed for great variation, and most of the owners subsequently rejigged their floor plan or added an extension. And what a unique little hillside hideaway they created. [video]



Yesterday afternoon we were treated to a talk from one of the residents at the foot of the close surrounded by a motley collection of large-ish homes. Some had stacked verandahs, others whopping glass sun-traps, but all bore the tell-tale stripes of panelled construction. One of the reasons it looks 'odd' is that trees grow right next to the properties, in one case a whopping Californian redwood within a couple of feet, because all the houses are anchored to the ground by means of deep vertical piles rather than typical foundations. The assembled crowd asked all sorts of questions (Are they expensive to heat? no) (How many of the original self-builders still live here? three) (What about utilities? they're all plugged in as normal) (Do the flat roofs give you problems? no because they're covered with gravel) (Could anyone build the same today? unlikely because regulations have changed).

The tour ended with a trip across the road to One Tree Hill allotments to see a 'shed' built to the same principles, a cunning ruse which got all the visitors out of the private cul-de-sac leaving its residents in peace. I got a slightly anarchic Eel Pie Island vibe from the place, and maybe something Scandinavian, and even targeted a bit of unfounded jealousy at those living here. Segal's low-fi approach could perhaps have been a model for fixing London's broken market of unaffordable housing. Walters Way is opening up again this afternoon from 12.30pm, this time with several of the houses open to visitors, should you fancy a look at how the future could have looked.

Open House: the Honor Oak Estate (Brockley, Lewisham) The 1930s Council Estate

This is one of the London County Council's largest interwar estates comprising 27 large C-shaped blocks, homogeneous except in orientation. The fronts are sheer brick, the backs layered walkways for access, and the flats sufficient for rehousing over a thousand families. Current facilities include a parade of mostly-shuttered shops, a community orchard in its very earliest stages and a school that's extended itself by adding two extra storeys on top.



All this you can see anytime so what Open House seemingly offered was a history exhibition and a self-guided tour. The exhibition turned out to be three boards and two maps inside the Youth Club, a glum no-expense-wasted facility added in the 1980s, which would probably have been of most interest to local residents. I enjoyed discovering that Ian Wright grew up here, and that he and fellow Arsenal player David Rocastle liked to have a chat up by the railway bridge, but was in and out in five minutes. I filled in the questionnaire politely - you might not have been so charitable.

Open House: Design District (North Greenwich) The Compact Creative Hub

Last year 16 properly weird buildings sprang up between the cablecar and the bus station in an attempt to give the Greenwich Peninsula some creative clout. Architects were gifted a footprint and encouraged to let their imaginations run riot, creating stacks of studio space in a variety of geometric forms. Again you can wander through here any time, they hope pausing for refreshment along the way, but Open House seemed to promise that at least half the buildings in the Design District would be available for a drop-in experience. I trusted the website and turned up.



Only building C2 had an official poster outside - it delivered an airy studio on the top floor and a pair of unnecessary films underneath. I deduced that building C1 was open because its stairs were unlocked, and enjoyed hiking up to the roof for a basketball court with a helluva view. D2 had its door open but nothing welcoming suggesting it was OK to go inside, C3 appeared just to be a cafe, A4 needed a buzz to get in and B2 wasn't open at all. It didn't help that the London Design Festival is currently in situ so the main focus was probably theirs, and it definitely didn't help that the Open House website's atomised approach to listings never gave a practical overview that could have made sense of the whole thing.

Every OH visit remains something of a raffle - sometimes you hit the jackpot and sometimes it wasn't worth drawing a ticket in the first place.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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

twenty blogs
853
our bow
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv