THE spectacular London Festival Of Architecture opens this month — offering the public a unique glimpse inside some of the capital’s most amazing buildings. From private walking tours and debates led by experts to talks and art installations, there are almost boundless opportunities to explore.
‘It’s the world’s biggest and best annual architecture festival — with a programme of hundreds of events across the city,’ says the festival’s director Tamsie Thomson.
‘Apart from supporting London’s amazing architecture and design talent, we’re sharing it with the widest possible public audience [more than 600,000 last year]. This year’s theme of boundaries is politically very timely.
‘It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how architects overcome the physical, social and economic boundaries that can otherwise constrain us, and find new ways of creating buildings and spaces that benefit everyone.’
Here’s our pick of some of the festival’s most captivating and quirkiest events.
FOR KIDS & FURTIVE LEGO FANS
RA Lego Architecture Challenge
Celebrate this year’s Big Architecture Family Day at the Royal Academy with three of the UK’s leading architectural practices as they compete to create the most innovative and imaginative project built entirely in Lego. The aim is to explore the boundaries between historic and contemporary architecture — but this also promises to be immense fun. June 23, 2pm-4pm, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly. Free admission.
FOR SUREFOOTED HISTORY BUFFS
Look Up! Hidden Gems In The West End
From powerful family crests to secret symbols and historic tales of despair, this walk along some of London’s most famous streets explores the hidden architectural details we would see if only we paused and looked skyward. Check out the fabulous details you never noticed before — and learn some of the fascinating stories hiding above our eyeline. June 15 and June 22, 11am-12.30pm: Starting at Green Park Station and finishing at Leicester Square Station. Tickets: £5 (all proceeds go to supporting the homeless).
FOR URBAN GUERILLAS
Urban Jungle: Boundaries
Grab your walking boots and join this comedy safari led by stand-up comedian and urban designer Nic Monisse to explore how we are shaped by architecture, landscape and urban design. Blending comedy with short documentaries, the tour will showcase amazing design and hidden beauty — while spotlighting those awkward encounters that are an essential and underrated part of living, working and playing in the capital. June 20, 6.15pm-7.15pm, Smeg Flagship Store, 14 Regent Street, St James’s. Tickets: £10 (booking necessary)
FOR FRUSTRATED HOTEL INSPECTORS
Hard Hat Tours Of The Londoner
Don your hard hat for a tantalising glimpse of this soon-to-be completed five-star luxury hotel. At 98ft deep and with six levels below ground, it’ll be the deepest habitable commercial building basement in London when it opens next year. The Londoner will boast 350 rooms, 35 suites, multiple restaurants and lounges, a rooftop bar, underground spa with swimming pool, an Odeon cinema and a 1,000-capacity ballroom. June 23, 10am-1pm. The Londoner, Leicester Square. Free admission, meeting point tbc.
FOR LOVERS OF OPULENCE
Learning from Las Vegas In London
‘Nothing succeeds like excess,’ according to Oscar Wilde. You’ll get an idea of what he meant at this evening of symbolism, ornament and excess — inspired by classic postmodernist texts. The event features talks, performances and films that examine our love affair with postmodernism and its origins in Las Vegas: an international beacon of extravagance. June 24, 6.30pm-8.30pm, Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square. Tickets: £8.
■ Until June 30, various venues, London, londonfestivalofarchitecture.co.uk