Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in London.

July 2019
Sarah Gaventa
Illuminated River Foundation

With the summer solstice having just passed and London’s architecture community still recovering from the busy excitement of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA), it is easy to think of July as the beginning of the end of what already seems like a blisteringly short summer. The glorious heat of last year has luckily transpired to be a fluke, with all of us far more comfortable with the shades of grey that go with a typical British summer. Yet it isn’t difficult to feel like the magic has dimmed as umbrellas and raincoats once more become a July staple. If the message of LFA was one of breaking boundaries and inspiring change, July’s message is one of illumination. With London anticipating the launch of Illuminated River, an artwork set to illuminate the architecture of London’s central bridges, July promises to provide ample opportunity to discover the trailblazing stories behind the fabric of this great city.


As someone with an equal passion for art and architecture, the Architecture of London exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery provides a wonderful opportunity to see some unusual paintings by both well- and lesser-known artists. With paintings depicting the mundane and the ordinary – the less frequently painted sights of London such as side streets, backs of houses and even the odd high walk – this exhibition is a visual feast. Of the work on show, one of the standouts is Lucian Freud’s view of the back of a row of Georgian terraced houses. It was painted just after the death of his father Ernst L. Freud, who was an architect, and perhaps first taught him to see the simple beauty of such buildings. You may not like everything in this show, which is a mash up of styles and tastes, however there is heaps to love. Much of the work is rarely on public display so do grab the opportunity to see it before it disappears again from view – rather like the subjects themselves.


As much as Architecture of London is a celebration of the great and the good, it is important to remember the lives and work of individuals who have been written out of the ‘canon’. Continuing the battle charge towards a more inclusive history of architecture, Shiromi Pinto’s latest novel Plastic Emotions explores the life of Sri Lanka’s first female architect, Minnette de Silva. Pinto’s novel will shed light on a visionary architect whose work rivalled that of Le Corbusier and created an architectural blueprint for an independent Sri Lanka – one to add to the summer reading lists.


In keeping with the theme of revolutionary women, the art world’s imagination has been set ablaze by Living Colour, the first UK retrospective of abstract expressionist, Lee Krasner.  Held at the Barbican, at the same time as the estate’s 50th anniversary, there is something electrifying about Krasner’s work being exhibited within a space that does justice to her huge body of work. Running until 1 September, if ever there was an opportunity to celebrate pioneering women’s art and the post-war magic of the Barbican, now is the time.


From the monastic brutalist halls of the Barbican to the 17th century interiors of the Royal Academy, the New Architecture Writers are holding a panel discussion on the edge conditions of urbanism and culture on 4 July. Made up of a roster of speakers at the tipping point of architectural criticism, the New Architecture Writers are always ones to keep on your radar should you want to be up to date with the best young voices within the industry. Panel speakers are all breaking boundaries in their own ways, and include Siufan Adey of Dezeen as well as curator and journalist, Chrystal Genesis.


Olafur Eliasson, a man who has always broken boundaries and the status quo, is coming to London this month, bringing with him a set of new artworks that have never been shown in the UK. Often playing with light, space and geometry, Olafur Eliasson: In real life will be Eliasson’s first work at the Tate Modern since he first broke collective consciousness with his Weather Project installation back in 2003. Opening on 16 July, I’ll be waiting to see the assortment of tricks Eliasson has up his sleeve.

Past Editors