Open House London 2017

Open House & Small Spaces

I have been way to busy lately. And it is my own fault, but London has so many things going on that it is impossible to just stay put! (I am currently working on my review of this year’s London Design Festival, is taking me a while to just try to process all the interesting stuff that went down on this years edition!)

Open House London 2017

So, a couple of weekends ago I volunteered to help out at Open House London (at the Bush TheatreHaworth Tompkins Architects – and at the GherkinNorman Foster. Fun was had, I am volunteering again next year for sure!).

bush theatre st mary axe gherkin open house 2017

They were two very different buildings to experience. On the left, we have the ‘writers’ room’, a quiet little corner hidden away on the top floor of the newly refurbished Bush Theatre. There, the theatre crew were on hand giving tours every 15min and guest were free to explore the backstage at their own pace.

On the right, the reflected oculus on top of 30 St Mary Axe, the Gherkin, were our job as volunteers was to help out the security teams efforts to keep to the schedule. The queue downstairs was huge, and the 10 minutes on the top floor felt way too short, but security was tight and we were trying to get as many people as we could to enjoy the view!

tower bridge town hall view london open house

Tower of London to the left and Town Hall to the right

Hidden House by Coffey Architects

After finishing my shift at the Gherkin, I rushed to my next stop: The Hidden House.

Sitting on top of the prison vaults of the Clerkenwell House of Detention, which dates back to 1847, it is really hidden from the street. As in if the volunteer from OpenHouse hadn’t pointed the way I might still be looking for it!

hidden house coffey architects location plan

Location plan via Aerial view via


One of the great things about volunteering is that then you get to jump the queue to enter the other buildings. And let me tell you, that and that was quite handy when visiting Coffey Architects little gem. Just over 70m2, and nested between a big building and the property boundary, this is a small house doesn’t feel like that small at all!

My Virtual Tour

Yellow dots pics: Mine / Black dots pics: Timothy Soar ©

The overall shape and layout have something to do with it, but the main source of space were the skylights and windows. I mean, I had seen pictures of it before, but the amount of natural light that you can feel inside is amazing.


Coffey-Architects_Hidden-House_Deezen Sketches

Drawings via


Bonus: Mount Pleasant by Peter Barber Architects

Hidden on a back street just off Grey’s Inn Road, Mount Pleasant was on of the first contemporary buildings to catch my attention when I first arrived to London (I was going to English classes in Holborn. For a couple of weeks. After that my teacher told me that the only way my English was going to improve was by actually getting a job and start talking to people on regular basis)


A shelter for homeless people, Open House was a great opportunity for them to show the community not only the building, but also about the work they do and how Peter Barber’s refurbishment and extension has really helped to improve the life and care of the residents.

mount pleasant peter barber architects courtyard

Special mention deserves the courtyard: the use of different colours on the bricks and the sculptural quality of the new extension, give this secluded space the feeling of a real square, and in doing so it becomes not only the spatial, but also the living centre of the building.


Come to think about it, all places I visited during Open House could be considered Hidden Places, in the sense that they are not usually open to the general public. Well, except for the Brixton Windmill, they do have open weekends every month (but you have to book in advance, because the inside of the mill is really cool, but also really small!)

brixton windmill open house london



For more information:

Open House London

Open House 2017

Volunteer’s Site

Hidden House References

Coffey Architects Website

RIBA Website (Location Plan)

Axnometry Drawings

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