The Open House concept was founded in 1992 in London by Victoria Thornton, with the aim of fostering a better understanding of architecture and the built environment outside the profession. Frustrated by the barriers between the architecture profession and the capital's citizens, Victoria set out to make London's buildings accessible to all, in line with her belief that direct experience is the most effective way to learn about, understand and argue for quality in the built environment.
“Well-designed buildings and public spaces are vital in creating and sustaining a vibrant city and Open House London enabled the wider community to become more knowledgeable, engage in dialogue and make informed judgements about architecture” she says.
By 1994, 200 contemporary and historic buildings across London featured in the event. Access to the buildings is always free and this has remained core the event’s ethos to encourage inclusivity for all, not just a few. The organisation behind the event is constantly researching new and future projects and has built up real experience in identifying exemplars to showcase working with the profession to involve a huge range of buildings and spaces of merit, including engineering and landscape design projects. Open-City has also developed not only an annual Open Debate, but also Open House Junior.
The Open House London event now sees over 750 buildings open to the public each September with over 250,000 building visits and the concept is being replicated across Europe, the United States, Latin America and Australia.
The unique Open House concept spread internationally when an Open House London architect volunteer Scott Lauer, practicing at Foster + Partners, inspired by his experiences, founded Open House New York in 2001, which now attracts over 185,000 participants. In 2005, the Irish Architecture Foundation approached Victoria, having heard positive reports from Irish architects exhibiting their buildings in London. They saw the philosophy behind the event as core to the objectives of the foundation and launched Open House Dublin that year. The Dublin event is now partly funded by their local authority, which considers public engagement with architecture to be a key civic issue.
To reflect the ever growing number of cities adopting the concept around the world, the Open House Worldwide Family brand was created in 2010, connecting a community of over 30 cities who organise annual events with the same model, and an audience of over 1 million people who participate in Open House events across the globe. The concept's success is due to it acting as an exemplary model of engagement with a city's citizens, and a step towards bridging the gap between experts and users.
17 August 2016: The Autumn season kicks off with two new cities joining Open House Worldwide
26 April 2016: The Spring Open House season is upon us!
11 September 2015: 3 new cities join Open House Worldwide family for the kick off the Autumn Season!