A Room for London

Mark the 19th of January in your diaries now – that’s the date of the release of the second tranche of bookings (July to December) for London’s most amazing penthouse. The ship-like vessel that appeared on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on South Bank last week is actually a one-bed apartment with the best views in London.

Designed by David Kohn Architects in conjunction with the artist Fiona Banner, A Room for London is intended as an ideas factory for London, with dates set aside for 12 writers, 12 musicians and 12 thinkers to stay onboard and get creative – the results of which will be posted online. The design is based on the author Jospeh Conrad’s boat, the Roi des Belges, and features a library, viewing deck and a desk with river views.

 A Room for London will open on 1 January and run throughout 2012. What happens to it afterwards is still undecided – but it may well pop up elsewhere in London. If you’re interested in the dates for paying guests prices are said to be from £120, and get in quick as the first round of dates didn’t last long. Find out more at:


UPDATE: it appears that the price has now gone up to £300 per night (for up to two people) for the second round of bookings.

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

The Geffrye Museum - with installation by Kei Ito in the foreground

The Geffrye Museum is not just a museum of the home, but a sort of ultra house museum: based in eighteenth century almshouses in Hoxton, it features a series of rooms displaying domestic interiors. The focus is on the urban English middle class living room from 1600 to the 1990s, whose development you can follow right up until modern warehouse conversions (complete with mezzanine level!). I’m personally a little torn between the 1935 art deco lounge room and the very retro g-plan-esque one from 1965, but on balance I think the latter has my final vote.

The museum itself is free (some temporary exhibitions have a charge), but on certain days you can pay £2.50 to visit the restored Almshouse 14 in the building’s south-west wing, to see how London’s elderly and poor once lived. And it’s not as grim as that makes it sound! I promise.

And don’t forget to visit the gardens around the back, which are also divided into periods depicting the development of the town house garden from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries. Although these are only open to the public from April to October, they can be glimpsed from the lovely garden reading room (and yes also from the East London overground line, right next to Hoxton Station!).

Now is a good time to visit though as the Geffrye is holding its annual Christmas Past installation, in which all the rooms are decorated in period Christmas decorations. On the afternoon of January 6th 2012 (4-5pm) they will hold that year’s traditional Farewell to Christmas burning of the holly and the ivy event in the garden. For more details visit their website:


The Londonphile photo gallery

2 Willow Road


A good place to start this blog is with one of my favourite architectural sites in London: 2 Willow Road. London is not known for its modernist architecture, and there’s even less of it than you can actually enter (especially outside the confines of the Open House weekend), but Willow Road is a happy exception to this rule.

Located in leafy Hampstead, Willow Road was designed by Erno Goldfinger (of Trellick Tower fame) and completed in 1939. It has the strong, clean lines, concrete supporting columns and window walls we would expect of a modernist house of this era, although the brickwork was a concession to not straying too far out synch with the neighbours. Goldfinger had originally designed a block of flats for the site, but after this failed to receive planning permission, he scaled the design back to this group of three ‘terrace’ houses – the Goldfingers moved into number 2 (in the centre) with separate tenants to either side in 1 and 3.

Much of the built-in furniture and door furniture was designed by Goldfinger himself. A strong feature of the house is the use of movable partitions between rooms, allowing space to be opened up or closed down when required. But life at number 2 wasn’t obsessively modern – when Goldfinger’s mother moved into the house later in her life she filled up her room with her ornate Austro-Hungarian furniture! The house was clearly designed as a place to live – it housed four generations of the family at one point – and also to work, featuring a studio (originally for Goldfinger’s wife) and study.

2 Willow Road is now run by the National Trust and open to visitors from March to November each year (in 2012 it will open from 3 March to 4 November, Wednesday to Sunday from 11am-5pm, with entry by guided tour on the hour between 11-2 and self-guided viewing from 3-5). You can also pick up a copy of a good self-guided walking tour of Hampstead’s modernist architecture on site. And keep an eye on the National Trust’s website as they also run excellent guided walking tours on this theme. I did one earlier this year and can highly recommend it – but that’s another post…