On 19 and 20 September, 700 buildings in the Greater London area open their doors to the general public, free of charge. Open House London is a public programme presented by Open House, a registered charity focused on raising the standard of architecture and the built environment through education. In its 17th year, the 2-day, annual event drew crowds at a wide variety of buildings being showcased ranging from landmark office buildings (Tower 42) to London City Hall to regenerated Victorian theatres (Hackney Empire Theatre) to eco-friendly housing (Carmarthen Place, Shoreditch Prototype House). Future posts will profile and discuss issues that arose in my mind after attending this event – the application of new-build, low impact designs in urban development, the marrying of new build with old to breathe new life into otherwise neglected buildings, the evolution of neighbourhoods and how we can grow with them through good building design and good community planning.
This post is about something I saw that went beyond just the buildings. Open House London gave people an opportunity to communicate with the architects that designed these structures or with people that work with or within them. But what I saw, more importantly, was that people were communicating with each other. There was a 20-30 minute queue to visit the Shoreditch Prototype House – designed and built by the architects Cox Bulleid, whose office studio occupies the ground floor and above it their three-storey family home. Strangers in the queue were chatting to each other whilst they waited – there was a brief sense of community created. Open House London only happens once a year. I wondered how this open, shared environment could be generated and promoted more often – and where.
How we get to know people in our community? In what ways can we engage our neighbours in conversation? I often get told its quite normal that people don’t know their neighbours in London. But the sight of people chatting in the Open House London queues makes me think that there are ways of getting people to communicate more within their community. People in the queue were sharing a common passion or interest in the built environment and the particular building they were waiting to visit. It comes as no surprise then that community and communicate have the same origin or root word – commune or common, meaning something shared.