Seven Modernist Masterpieces to Visit at Open House London 2016


This weekend, once again, Londoners and visitors get the chance to explore some of the capital’s best buildings during Open House 2016. The annual festival grants access to hundreds of buildings, from the city’s oldest structures to the latest glass skyscrapers. It’s a bit of a nightmare deciding what to do, so to help out (and to create our own shortlist) we’ve picked some of the most inspiring and exciting buildings from the Modernist and Brutalist movements: think sexy concrete, social housing and captivating mid-century design.

Bevin Court

Bevin Court London brutalism
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Cruikshank Street WC1X 9HA
Bevin Court is open for the first time this year. It’s often described as one of London’s hidden Modernist gems, even though it was designed by radical architecture practice Tecton (famous for Highpoint Towers). Its staircase is a wonderful example of midecentury Modernism.

The Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower Brutalism London
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Golborne Road, Kensington W10 5UU
Hungarian-born architect Ernö Goldfinger left two major legacies in London – the infamous Trellick and Balfron Towers. Often found in ‘London’s Ugliest Buildings’ lists, these two high-rise structures are Grade II listed and we love them. The Brutalist icon opens its doors this weekend and offers a rare chance to tour the Trellick and learn more about Goldfinger’s unique approach to mid-century housing.

Haggerston School

Haggerston School Hackney London Modernism Architecture Brutalism Erno Goldfinger
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Weymouth Terrace, Hackney E2 8LS
Haggerston School is another of Ernő Goldfinger’s imposing creations and is the only English secondary school to be designed by the internationally regarded architect. The school is distinctive for the large amount of timber used in the construction and contains some of Goldfinger’s boldest and most handsome public interiors, including hammered concrete and coffered (sunken) ceilings in the entrance and main hall. The school occasionally hosts Modernism markets, but this is a good chance to explore the building properly.

Alexandra Road Estate

Alexandra Road Estate London Brutalism
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Langtry Walk/Rowley Way NW8 0SW
Also this weekend is a rare chance to see Neave Brown’s Brutalist behemoth – the Alexandra Road Estate. The 500 apartment block made from the sexiest unpainted concrete will open several of its flats, in different styles, as well as the original tenant’s hall.

Robin Hood Gardens

Robin Hood Gardens London
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Poplar High Street/Blackwall Tunnel Approach E14 0HN
Similarly, Alison & Peter Smithson’s much celebrated post-war estate is also open, on both Saturday and Sunday. An exhibition of artefacts and photographs from the glory days of the estate will be on display, and regular tours allow access to the building. For more information, see the new Robin Hood Gardens website.

Cranbrook Estate

Bethnal Green Cranbrook Estate Brutalism Social Housing
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Mace Street E2 0QT
When World War II bombs destroyed East London, many of Bethnal Green’s Victorian terraces were flattened. The Cranbrook Estate was one of many to replace lost homes. Designed by Modernist master Berthold Lubetkin (famous for the iconic London Zoo Penguin Pool), this particular estate combines Modernist architecture with Constructivist flair.

St Paul’s, Bow Common

St Pauls Bow Common London
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Burdett Rd, Tower Hamlets E3 4AR
Desrcibed as “the most significant church built in Great Britain post-Word War II”, St Paul’s Bow Common, by architects Robert Maguire and Keith Murray, is a brutalist masterpiece and a blueprint for places of worship built afterwards. In 2013 the building was awarded the National Churches Trust Diamond Jubilee Award for best Modern Church built in the UK since 1953; its concrete structure and 800 foot square mosaic is unique and a delight for all architecture fans, whatever your religious beliefs.