I know that I am way behind with my blogging, and that I promised to post more photos from Italy. Honestly, I will post them…
But today it is about last weekend and Open House London. Open House is a great event, held in London every year in September, when members of public have a chance to enter and explore thousands of different building in London for free. It gives you a chance to explore buildings from different eras, admire architecture and interiors or simply have a peek on where some people work and relax.
Although some buildings are open to public any other day, maybe for a fee, such as Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner or Barbican Centre, it is buildings which have restricted access that are the biggest fun.
This was my third event. On previous occasions I managed to get into Freemasons’s Hall, City Hall, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Bank of England, Lloyd’s of London, Ernst and Young office in More London and Embassy of Argentina to name a few.
This year we decided to stick to Westminster. Our first stop was Channel Four headquarters. It is a contemporary building, build in 1991-1994 to the design of Richard Rogers Partnership. I absolutely loved this full of light structure, made of steel and curved glass. We were allowed to go up to the top floor to look at the structure of the concave atrium and also to the staff restaurant on the ground floor to admire lovely terrace and a courtyard.
Our second stop was Portcullis House, a contemporary building which is part of the Houses of Parliament and houses MP’s offices and committee rooms. It was designed by Michael Hopkins and built in 1998-2001 together with 7-storey high underground chamber for a new tube station. But the most striking feature of the building is a rectangular courtyard covered by a glass roof at second level and surrounded by a 2-storey cloister. There are twelve fig trees and a lovely water features in the courtyard which creates absolutely lovely atmosphere. Apparently, this atrium is a popular place with MP’s and their stuff.
Our next stop was Banqueting House in Whitehall Palace. It was the first building designed in Palladian style by Indigo Jones, was finished in 1622 for James I. It is the last remaining complete building of Whitehall Palace, which was a hide two thousand room complex stretching from St Jame’s park to Embankment Gardens and from Charing Cross to Parliament Square. The ceilings of the main room were painted bu Peter Paul Rubens in 1630-4, which were commissioned by Charles I to commemorate his farther James I. Little did Charles I know that also would be the place where he would be executed in 1649 during the English Civil War.
Walking down Whitehall, we also visited Admiralty Boardroom and Admiralty House at 26, Whitehall. It used to be Admiralty Building, accommodating the administrators of the Royal Navy. Today the building is owned by the Cabinet Office and occupied by various Ministers and their stuff. But the Admiralty Boardroom is still used today by the First Sea Lord and the Admiralty Board. It is a most magnificent room, full of opulence and splendor. All the paintings and objects have a naval theme. The most striking feature of this room is the wooden panelling around the fireplace which is the most intricate piece of carved wood I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of this masterpiece.
Our last stop was Marlborough House on Pall Mall, just next door to Clarence House, London residence of Prince Charles. It is a Royal Palace, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren for the First Duke of Marlborough and build in 1711. Today it serves ads the international headquarters of the Commonwealth. Walls and ceilings of the Palace are lavishly decorated by 17 century paintings.