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

December 2017
Owen Wainhouse
Deputy Director
London Festival of Architecture

What makes the business of architecture so interesting for me is the interplay with politics. All architecture is political. And architectural awards, whilst rewarding the best new architecture, can also encourage a change in public perceptions and political thinking. The RIBA’s Stirling Prize has often marked these current trends and political themes. 


I wonder whether this year’s Stirling Prize, for the reconstruction of the burnt wreck of Hastings Pier by dRMM architects might, in hindsight, be seen as another marker. The project was notable for its lack of a big iconic building. I’ve heard lots of architects say recently – not least on our festival podcast, Architecture Masters - that what really excites them now is the space between the buildings rather than the buildings themselves. In London our buildings are now, largely, much better considered. But there’s still huge potential for architects to reshape the spaces between.


Nowhere more does that ‘space between’ affect Londoners more than on our polluted, traffic clogged streets. Whilst architects are notoriously attached to their Bromptons, we shouldn’t forget that walking is one of the best forms of exercise going.


So I’m really looking forward to the ‘Walkable London’ exhibition by Zaha Hadid Architects at the New London Architecture galleries from 05 December and this linked talk by the practice on 15 December about “making London the number one walking city in the world” is long overdue. 


And with consultations ongoing around closing Oxford Street to vehicles, we might be just starting to make progress on thinking properly about the spaces between the buildings. Find out more at NLA’s Public Realm PechaKucha event on 12 Dec.


Moving north from Oxford Street, this architectural amble through Marylebone and Mayfair by the London Ambler will give you an enjoyable insight into the architectural stories behind the smart terraces and squares of the West End that replaced the slums of yore.


If walking’s not your thing, then perhaps it’s time to take to ice? Whilst everyone’s talking about the ice rink at Somerset House, I’ll be heading over to Canary Wharf to wobble my way along at the ice rink there. I love the architectural ambition and slightly transatlantic feel of the place.


If you need some guiding, then this Open City tour from Bow to Canary Wharf – on foot! - might help.


Whilst you’re there, check out the construction of the new One Park Drive tower by Herzog & de Meuron architects and the striking Newfoundland Tower, also in mid-construction by Horden Cherry Lee architects. The speed of construction is breath-taking. Both towers form part of Canary Wharf’s ever-changing identity, from historic docklands, to isolated offices, to increasingly a thriving (albeit overly exclusive) residential area.


Which brings me on finally on to ‘identity’ and the recently announced theme for the London Festival of Architecture 2018.  Identity? Now that’s where architecture and politics really collide.


Our Open Call for entries is, well, open until 28th February. So if you’ve got a burning idea for a project, event or installation, we would love to hear from you.

Past Editors