Inside London’s Private Buildings Part I (Open House 2017)

I love Open House and only in a city London will you experience an incredible event like it. A few week before, I received an email notifying me Open House 2017 was just around the corner and asked if I’d like to volunteer. ‘Hang on’, I thought, ‘wasn’t Open House’ was only a few months ago’. A year had, in fact, passed. How time has flown.

A couple of week in the lead up to it. I received an email notifying me Open House 2017 was just around the corner and inviting me to consider volunteering as a steward. ‘Hang on’, I thought, ‘wasn’t Open House’ was only a few months ago’. A year had, in fact, passed. How time has flown.

I thought, ‘why not’ and decided to volunteer. I was lucky to be in my inbox when the email came through. I was able to secure a volunteering spot at The Gherkin, one of the red-hot attractions at Open House. Win

At the time writing, Open House 2017 has, of course, come and gone (where the f*** did those 6 weeks go?!), but I’d still like record my experiences somewhere so I can remind myself the best places to go when next year’s Open House comes again.. This is what I saw.

  1. One Angel Court

Taking my place between 16-17 September 2017, I was not due to start my shift at the Gherkin until 11am on Saturday – or so I thought. As my Tube rattled towards The City, I discovered I was actually due to start at 11.30. Quickly turning my slight annoyance around, I decided to use the spare 30 minutes to visit one of the first building I’d plan to see in the City close by: One Angel Court.

1 Angel Court is an office block. To my delight, One Angel Court was devoid of queues and is a high-rise building. I was amazed at the view even although the top floor was out of bounds, the views were still majestic. One of the best (and unknown) buildings taking part in Open House? I think so.

2. The Gherkin (30 St Mary’s Axe)

In a flash, my time was up and I was legging it over to the Gherkin. Arriving fashionably slightly late, the first thing I noticed (and how can you not) was the queue. Below are the lucky people nearing the entrance. I was not keen on finding out how far it snaked over. I was counting my lucky stars.

Open House 2017 - 08

One of the great perks of being a volunteer is the queue pass, Within 5 minutes of announcing my arrival to the rest of the volunteer team, I was up at the top. The views were good as you’d expect when you’re 180 meters up above London. I think you’ll agree, it’s pretty nice.

But nice and good just wasn’t enough. People conversed around me telling each other they’d queued up to 5 hours to get inside. If I was queuing for something for that long. I’d expect a lot more than just ‘nice’ and ‘good’. I could get just as good a view at the Skygarden and that’s free”, I thought. What would have been cool was if we actually snooped around the offices. Wishful thinking.

I returned to the ground level where I manfully manned the information desk, answering enquiries and selling Open House merch. It was a three and half hour stint but I was fortunate to have met some really cool people who were great to chat to and made my volunteering time a breeze. Literally, three hours flew by. Volunteering is fun!

3. Broadgate Tower

After exchanging contact details and bidding adieu to my fellow volunteers at the end of my volunteering tint, my next stop was Broadgate Tower, another high-rise office block not too far from Liverpool Street station. It brought back memories. Many light years ago, I actually worked briefly when I did some work experience at Reed Smith, this big commercial law firm.

To my disappointment, only the 5th floor was open to visitors. Views weren’t great but at least I got to look around SOM office, an architecture firm, and a tour given by the top brass. Nice.I didn’t hang around for long before making a move to my next destination.

4. City Hall

City Hall was next on my radar. I’ve seen it countless times (I’d intern at a company that was literally next door!) and fortunate to even to have attended a Christmas party (and sing a Christmas carol!) in London’s ‘living room’. But I was hellbent on seeing one thing.

Arriving at the scene, a sizeable queue had formed with intrepid explorers patiently waiting to get inside. Putting my volunteer queue pass to good use, I quickly bypassed the queue and through security. The look of envy and confusion as I strolled to the front of the queue was a pretty awkward sensation. I could people’s eyes boring down at me through the back of my skull.

Open House 2017 - 15
This area is known as ‘London’s living room’.

The views from the top, although not quite as high as the soaring skyscrapers of The Gherkin, offers a unique viewing point of Tower Bridge, The Scoop and The Thames.

After quickly taking in the views and the surroundings of ‘London’s living room’, I finally arrived at the top of what I’d wanted to see for a long, long time: the famous spiral staircase.

It was as impressive as I thought it would be, winding its way impressively to the floor space below where some people have taken to lying on the floor so they can look up. How cool would it be to call City Hall ‘the office’ I thought to myself as I descended down the helix-shaped staircase whilst looking through the glass windows and into the offices.

The walking, standing and lack of food was starting to take its toll on me and although I’d liked to have more time to explore my next building on my list, I was slightly glad that Open House for the day was coming to an end. The adventure would have to continue tomorrow.

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