Visit London Blog » london buildings Enjoy the very best of London Fri, 22 May 2015 17:44:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Open House London 2011: Former Commonwealth Institute Mon, 19 Sep 2011 16:00:41 +0000 Last weekend’s Open House London was a rare chance to get inside some of the city’s architectural highlights, many of which are usually closed to the public. This year, the two day event showcased more than 700 buildings across the capital.

I took the opportunity to tour the Former Commonwealth Institute in Holland Park, regarded by English Heritage as the second most important modern building in London after The Royal Festival Hall.

Displaying artefacts and information from across the Commonwealth, I remember the building primarily for its lifelike Inuit and skidoo, as seen aged eight. A few decades on, and now lacking its many exhibits, the building’s entire structure is visible, and it is a revelation.

Skylight at Commonwealth InstituteOpened in 1962, the structure is made up of a large central hall topped by a concrete “hyperbolic paraboloid” roof – think of a piece of paper suspended from two diagonal corners, and you get the rough idea. Two galleried floors wrap around a central marble platform, all atmospherically lit by modest skylights and the finest in 1960s pendants.

The building has stood empty since its closure in 2002, but is set to be revitalised thanks to the ambitious relocation plans of The Design Museum, currently based in Shad Thames.

Architect Rem Koolhaas will transform the space, with exhibition and educational areas, a 200-seater auditorium, restaurant and shop. Sadly the building will be closed to the public until then – so paraboloid fans will just have to wait!

Full Design Museum plans for the Commonwealth Institute are being finalised and submitted for planning approval in the next few months, and the new museum will open in 2014. Open House London 2012 is scheduled for 22 and 23 September.

What did you see at this year’s Open House London? Why not add your pictures to the Visit London flickr pool.

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World Cup Semi-Final at the BT Tower in London Wed, 07 Jul 2010 14:50:50 +0000

As the World Cup reached the heady heights of the last four yesterday, I decided there was no better place to watch the semi-finals than at the BT Tower  – one of London’s tallest buildings.

The BT Tower originally opened in 1966 with a viewing gallery, souvenir shop and rotating restaurant, but sadly it has been closed to the public since 1981.

After being security checked I ascended the 500-odd feet to the viewing deck in less than 30 seconds by lift and walked into what was once the restaurant; now it’s a spacious viewing gallery.

The view was simply breathtaking. London looks even more beautiful from up high than it did from street-level.

Despite the important football match being shown on the many flashy plasma screens, I struggled to keep my eyes on the ball and away from the stunning views.

Tower Bridge, The London Eye, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf, all gigantic structures in their own right, looked like little souvenir models from Hamleys.

Last year The Times reported that negotiations were afoot to re-open the tower to the public ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I for one would add my name to any petition supporting such a move.

Would you like the BT Tower to re-open to the public?


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Jean Nouvel’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010 Launch Tue, 06 Jul 2010 13:30:07 +0000 Jean Nouvel's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010. Photo By: Jonny Payne The bar in Jean Nouvel's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010. Photo By: Jonny Payne Jean Nouvel Reflects on his Pavilion. Photo By: Jonny Payne The Canopy of Jean Nouvel's Pavilion. Photo By: Jonny Payne The 2010 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. Photo By: Jonny Payne Table Tennis at the Serpentine Gallery Pavillion. Photo By: Jonny Payne

Jean Nouvel, the acclaimed French architect responsible for extraordinary buildings from Barcelona to Berlin has completed his first building in London and it’s an outstanding example of modern architecture.

The eccentric architect has created this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, with a stunning, entirely red creation.

Made from red steel, glass, mirrors and fabric, the main structure includes a 12m high angled wall leaning inwards, dominating the rest of the construction.

In its shadow, under a tiered canopy is a bar and seating area with chess boards, benches and tables. It provides the perfect space to sit back and relax while gazing at reflections from the surrounding red glass.

Outside of the main structure, there’s a chance to work up a sweat playing table tennis or relax on one of the free-standing hammocks or loungers – all in the beautiful surrounds of the luscious Hyde Park.

Jean Nouvel’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is the 10th annual commission by the Serpentine Gallery. The pavilion is open to the public from 10 July-17 October. Free admission.

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Photo Of The Week: London Ice Sculpture in Covent Garden Mon, 14 Sep 2009 16:50:35 +0000 Covent Garden Ice Sculpture of Big Ben

London’s officially cool and here’s the proof!

Covent Garden unveiled a three-tonne London skyline sculpture made of ice on the piazza over the weekend. As it’s been lovely and sunny in London over the last couple of days, the scuplture has now melted…

Seen anything fascinating in London this week? Add your snaps to the Visit London Flickr Pool!

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