Still an Open City



What we do and why we do it

In the midst of Covid-19, understandably cities like London might not feel as ‘open’ as they usually do; how we experience public spaces, interactions in the street and what happens beyond our front door will probably be a little different at the moment. But it does give us a chance to reflect on the importance of the work we do to make the built environment as 'open' as possible.

Open City aims to bring people closer to their built environment to inspire, engage and raise aspirations. We play a key role in shaping how people think about their built environment. Uniquely, much of what we do centres upon bringing city-makers - architects, developers, politicians - and the public together and showing what can be achieved when everyone has an equitable role in shaping their city. Click here to read our three year plan. 

Below are what individuals from our community say about their first-hand experience of what Open City does and why it is important. 


Robinson - Realising ambition through Accelerate 

"Accelerate was an opportunity for me to really express my creativity and ideas in various workspaces where I was constantly learning something new. Whether it was from professional print makers or students at the UCL, the knowledge alongside the experiences I gained is something I thoroughly enjoyed and will never forget.

Going to the rooftop garden at the Aga Khan Centre, and visiting the King’s Cross Redevelopment project were two of the visits that really inspired me, and made me appreciate how culture and history can be linked into architecture.

The way the course was structured with various workshops, site visits, sketching tasks, group presentations and firm experiences, enabled me to really be involved and understand the work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ of the architecture in London.

I was excited to come to every workshop, and to work in a collaborative studio environment with students like myself from all over London, who soon became my good friends. Accelerate enabled me to realise that architecture is the field I want to explore and be a part, and so I am very grateful for the amazing experience I had and the people I met."


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Peter - Being an Open City Volunteer

"I started volunteering as a building steward for Open House Weekend in 2001. In 2014 I did some shifts sending out guidebooks, banners and badges for the event, and I so much enjoyed the friendly atmosphere at the OH office that I became a regular volunteer.

Volunteering here is immensely rewarding because the Open House project is so important. Our annual festival of architecture allows the public to investigate and celebrate their built environment; and allows architects to see first-hand how the public respond to their work. I call and email dozens of businesses, owners and architects every day: it is astonishing that everyone invariably recognises and responds positively to the Open House name and will put themselves to a lot of trouble to support us. 

Our long-standing success has made us a London institution and we build on that positive recognition for our other initiatives - Citymaking SessionsFamilies, Accelerate, Tours - all contributing to our objective of improving understanding of the built environment and how it can better meet everyone’s needs."


Louise – The importance of engaging young people in projects like Think Big

"Projects like Think Big are integral to the forming of relevant built spaces as they encourage users, in this case young people ages 14-18, to consider how and why they use their surroundings in the ways they do, to evaluate their efficacy, to protect spaces they believe are important, to propose ideas to improve spaces they think are deficient and create spaces for people who are underserved by existing provision. If doing all of this before you’ve left school isn’t thinking big, I don’t know what is!" 



Robin - Why volunteer

"Getting an insider’s view of what’s really happening in London – that’s why we volunteer for Open City. And there’s always something happening. Buildings are where we live, work and play and volunteering for Open City and being involved in the Open House weekend is an extraordinary opportunity to get really under London’s skin. We volunteers are part of the team talking to building owners, occupiers, to architects and builders about what is happening and what is interesting, unusual and dynamic in this great city’s built environment."