Open House weekend 2013

Posted on October 2, 2013 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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The magnificent ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens in the hall in 1636 at the Banqueting House

 

As an architecture lover ( I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid, because Lego was my obsession at the time), the Open House weekend has always been one of my favourite events in London. Unfortunately, this year, I was too busy to pre-book and too sick to plan, and so I did not manage to take full advantage of the weekend. And unlike my friend, I was not willing to queue for hours either.

On Saturday, a friend and I met up in Westminster to try and get into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but was put off by the extremely long queue outside. Hence, we walked across the street and opted for the shorter queue outside of the Banqueting House instead. We noticed that there were a lot more tourists than the previous years, perhaps it was due to the publicity, but the event that once was enjoyed by mainly Londoners has become a very 'touristy' event. ( I probably sound like a bitter and grumpy old fart, but I can't help feeling that London is far too 'touristy' these days!)

We waited for only 10 mins and were eventually allowed into the only survivingĀ building of the old Palace of Whitehall. This Palladian-style building was designed by Inigo Jones for James I in 1619 and in 1936, Flemish artists, Sir Peter Paul Rubens's ceiling paintings were installed. Lying on the beanbags provided in the hall, my friend and I were rather gobsmacked by how three-dimensional the paintings looked from below! The painting techniques of these old masters made me understand why their work would stretch millions today because they are truly outstanding.

 

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The Elizabethan ( 1562) Middle Temple Hall in Temple

 

Although I didn't visit Middle Temple Hall during the weekend ( which was part of the Open House), I went to the hall 2 weeks before with friends visiting from abroad. I made an appointment for lunch and we were able to enjoy our meal in one of the best preserved Elizabethan architecture ( built between 1562 and 1573 ) in London. And here the hall is equally stunning...

 

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A grade II listed Art deco building: London school of of Hygiene & tropical medicine on Keppel Street in Bloomsbury's exterior and interior

 

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to skip the 'touristy' area and went to one of my favourite areas in London: the historical Bloomsbury. My tactic paid off because there were not as many tourists and queues were relatively short. I opted for a guided tour at the art deco building, London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine. The Grade II listed building was officially opened in 1929, but part of the building was destroyed by a bomb during World War II and had to be restored. The exterior of the building features gilded bronze insects and animals that transmit diseases on the balconies, and displays the names of 23 pioneers of public health and tropical medicine on the frieze. Inside the building, it was a mix of old and new, but I especially love the art deco style library, except for the hideous fluorescent lighting!

 

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British Medical Association, a grade II listed building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911

 

Without any planning, I walked into the British Medical Association House just in time for the hourly guided tour, and it turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. The grade II listed building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, and has been the home to the British Medical Association since 1925. Personally, I found the exterior of the building esp. the courtyard more spectacular than the interior, but it was the tranquil garden at the back that took all of us by surprise. And it turned out that the garden area had been occupied by Tavistock House, which was the home of novelist Charles Dickens in the late 1850s.

 

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Birkbeck school of arts's new and award-winning film and media centre and its historical pastĀ 

 

My last stop of the day was Birkbeck school of arts on Gordon Square. The guide was rather shocked by the overwhelming number of people who were interested in joining the tour, as they had not expected so many visitors. As part of the Bedford Estate developed between the early 1820s and 1860 designed by Thomas Cubitt, the school actually looks rather bland from the outside. The highlight of the building is the 2008 RIBA award-winning centre for film and media designed by Surface Architects in 2007. The architects were inspired by the cinematic movement and Virginia Woolf's ( a former resident) stream of consciousness narratives. They created a very colourful, bold and striking centre which seems very 'post modern' to me. I can't decide whether I like it or not, but it is certainly one of a kind.

In this maze-like building, we were eventually led to the older part ( no.46), where Virginia Woolf moved to with her family after her father died in 1904. It was here where she met other fellow writers and artists and formed the Bloomsbury Group. Interestingly, not THAT much seems to have changed from view out of the 1st floor window... and this is the reason why I love Bloomsbury, it is one of last few areas in London where it is still relatively intact and has not been redeveloped. I sincerely hope it will continue to stay this way.

 


This post was posted in London, Architecture, Modernist & Art Deco, British heritage and was tagged with London, architecture, open house, heritage, art deco architecture

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