Social capital - by Rory Olcayto

14/08/19

In many ways, London feels more ‘social’ than ever. It can spring from the deep connection we make with our habitat when we take in a view of the city we spend our lives in from a new rooftop venue. (Many of which we highlighted during National Park City Week in July and yes, the top deck of Peckham car park, open throughout the summer for Bold Tendencies, the art show, remains our favourite.) Or it can emerge from more intimate moments – a ceramics workshop you’ve signed up for, at Open House regular Turning Earth for example.

Or perhaps it's a tour you’ve taken of a very special building, during one of our own ‘Evening With’ events, at Walmer Yard maybe, renowned for its ‘slow food’ design (it took the architect Peter Salter years to conceive and build).

You could even argue that the skyline is friendlier looking than ever before, the jaunty – some might say silly – nature of it (have you seen the City’s cluster of towers recently?!) transcending the negativity – the gloom of shadows, the typically boxy dullness, that towering skylines so often bring.

And most of it is new-ish: Marks Barfield’s London Eye, for example, which to fresh eyes must seem to have always sidled up to the South Bank. But also Norman Foster’s Gherkin, Renzo Piano’s Shard, Rogers Stirk and Harbour’s Cheesegrater, Anish Kapoor’s twisty Olympic folly tower and Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie. All built since the turn of the millennium.

But there is another layer of newness re- making the City too: housing, in all shapes and sizes, after years of playing second fiddle to commercial and cultural architecture, is having a moment. From Barratts’ brick towers at Aldgate Cross (designed by Allies & Morrison) to the not-yet-finished One Park Drive in Canary Wharf by Tate Modern starchitects Herzog de Meuron.

Nevertheless, while luxury housing of this order is clearly for the few, Open House London has always been for the many. Which is why we’ve teamed up this year with Clarion Housing, the UK’s largest housing association (we present the findings of its diversity survey – the biggest ever undertaken of British residents) and architects Pollard Thomas Edwards, whose broad range of projects, from a renewed North London housing estate to a women-only co-housing scheme, captures the breadth of residential design thinking in the capital today.

The residents of Hackney’s Beck Road, have taken this notion of ‘social’ further still with a two-day art exhibition this Open House Weekend. Spanning the length of the street, the show – conceived by residents Alastair Carruthers and Kathryn Lovering – will be presented in rooms and studios of private homes, local businesses, and not-for-profit studios and charity spaces under railway arches.

All art on show will be by current and former residents, tenants and employees of Beck Road. As well as celebrating the culture of a long- standing, dynamic community, it should make for a fascinating street party.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town we’ve partnered with the Savile Row this year to explore the social history of one of the most famous streets in the world: Savile Row.

Together with our other supporters – Fosters, the Old Oak Common and Park Royal Development Company among them – they ensure the quality of buildings and places to visit this year are top notch and ready to welcome you. Crowdfund London is also on board with Open House in 2019, meaning some of the best crowdfunded projects – citizen-led schemes match-funded by the Mayor, are among the highlights off this year’s programme. Social? Of course it is. As we’ve been saying for a while now: people make Open House.