Explore behind closed doors with Open House

Coming up this Saturday and Sunday is Open House 2016 . Open House, which started in 1992, is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes public awareness and appreciation of the capital’s building design and architecture.

Image: Open House

Image: Open House

But with hundreds of sites to see across London, what to visit? It pays to invest a bit of time in research and planning. There’s the website, a guidebook and an app.  For most, it’s just a question of visiting one or two places; diehards who want visit as much as possible tend to focus on a particular part of London (even using a bike to cycle from one place to the next).

To avoid frustrating waits, check opening hours, whether there are tours (could involve a bit of a wait to join) or whether you need to pre-book.

Without travelling too far from West Hampstead, what can you see? Camden actually has plenty of options, with an array of housing commissioned by Sidney Cook, the borough architect from 1965 to 1973. Locally, there is the Grade II listed Alexandra Road Estate, which will have tours of flats (Sat). Or visit another local icon (Sat & Sun), the grade 1 listed Isokon building.

Image: Open House

Isokon Building.  Image: Open House

A tiny bit further afield in neighbouring Barnet, Open House presents an excuse to visit Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Grade 1 listed Free Church and St. Judes on the Hill, both designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. There are walking tours of the suburb plus self-guided tours.

However, one of the best things about Open House is the opportunity to visit more modern houses. Locally in Hampstead are 44 Willoughby Rd (Sat & Sun), Elizabeth Mews in Belsize Park (Sun) and Kebony House (Sat).

Not too far away, in Queens Park, is Studio McLeod (Sat) – behind a non-descript shopfront at 320 Kilburn Lane is an architects studio/stylish family home with a not-to-be-missed sliding staircase hiding a motorcycle.

If you’re feeling much more adventurous, why not explore further afield and see something completely different? Take the Overground to Hackney or head south of the river to see some of the most interesting contemporary architecture being built in London.

Of course there are a whole host of historic and commercial building to see as well.  We will leave you with a link to the Open House Listings, and let us know what you’ve enjoyed visiting.