Open House London was founded in 1992 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 general public, 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 we saw Open House London as a way of helping 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. 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. Activities range from talks and walks to tours and debates.
Open House London now sees over 700 buildings open to the public each September with over 350,000 building visits and the concept is being replicated across Europe, the United States and the Far East.
Since 1992, the London-based organisation that created this concept has grown to include research, training, advice and campaigns on the built environment that impact on the whole city. To reflect this, the organisation changed its name in March 2010 to Open-City. Open House London retains it’s own identity.
The unique Open House concept spread internationally when an Open House London architect volunteer 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.
Open House Tel Aviv joined in 2007, attracting 20,000 visits in their first year despite minimal publicity and now significantly more, with a variety of talks, tours and family events to boot. Galway and Barcelona have joined the family more recently and look set to enjoy similar growth as their local public experience first-hand the gems that each city has to offer.
7 December 2012: Open House Lisbon shortlisted by TimeOut for Best Event of 2012!
21 November 2012: Thessaloniki opens it's doors to the city this weekend!
2 November 2012: Open House Thessaloniki launch new website