Green Roofs at the Open House Weekend

Better late than never. I have just been so busy, I haven’t had time to report on the Open House Weekend, until now.

One of the great events in London, especially for the eternally nosy, is the Open House weekend held every year in September. Houses, libraries, churches, architectural wonders and curiosities throw their doors open and invite people inside. Most properties have a guide who knows or is briefed about the building. Some are architect or owner led.

I carefully planned this weekend’s properties. Going on the assumption that I can go to public buildings and places with regular tours anytime coupled with the research on sustainable buildings I narrowed the list down to 10 properties, six of which got visited: Three on Saturday and three on Sunday. They all had a green roof connection.

Saturday, Bruce and I arrived at the King’s Cross Construction Skills Centre at 9am – bleary eyed, but it wasn’t open, as advertised. I don’t think it was our mistake as there was another punter there too. Never mind, the chance to see how people are trained to install green roofs and solar PV among other sustainable technologies will have to wait.

The walk back to King’s Cross station meant passing the Guardian Newspaper building and the chance to drown our sorrows in a cup of tea and a wander around the building. They were also part of the event so there were tours being organised, but we gave it a miss. I wasn’t in love with the building until we went down to the basement by escalator but it is truly one of the most fabulous experiences. Quite took my breath away. Downstairs there are a few art pieces.

Ark by Steve Dilworth Bronze & Nickel Silver

Back to King’s Cross and took the train up to Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate on Abbey Road (yes, that Abbey Road). A&A or Rowley Way as it is often called is one of the great architectural wonders of 1970’s social housing in the UK. Actually, any housing in the UK. It was designed by Neave Brown of the Camden Council architectural department in the days before organisations outsourced this kind of work. (A little bit of political economy thrown in for free there) The estate is mixed housing now and the flat we saw was faithfully kept in original condition by the resident. She had information leaflets including the instruction booklet on how to live with the heating system. The leisure centre has also got a green roof – which I helped plant out in the early summer. It is looking lush and verdant. No access unfortunately.


The bus took us up to West Hampstead where we had lunch at the Banana Tree Canteen. Very very good indeed. Fortified we headed up to 37-63 Fortune Green on another bus.

The reason I wanted to visit was simply because of the green roof. And we were not disappointed. We saw through 3 flats: the penthouse which had a balcony surrounding it on 3 sides. Nice. Lots of light.  And then another two smaller flats one of which I could quite happily live in and they both had roof gardens. They were trying, with some difficulty, to sell the flats, although one had sold that morning.

Then we went onto the roof. An areal view of the gardens here reveals just how clever the roof design is.

Fortunes to be made from green roof gardens in Fortune Green

Unfortunately I didn’t really like it in the flesh. Immediately I could tell what the aesthetic was supposed to be. Although if you have ever been to a Mediterranean hillside town, it really is not the same. It is more like the holiday resorts mimicking the real thing. So, I was pleased that I ‘got’ the aesthetic, but then slightly miffed because it was a holiday apartment aesthetic. Still, it matched the interior decor of the flats, which were done out in the posh hotel aesthetic.  And I couldn’t really see the point of having a private swimming pool on the roof in this climate, even if it the sunny south. (Remind me to start enjoying life again and aspiring to more than a tidy house once this PhD is over)

One of the routes to a roof garden

I talked to a resident of Fortune Green the next day when we met at another open house (there is always the conversational “where did you go this morning/yesterday?”) and she told me people in the village were a bit upset that their pub was knocked down to build this architectural wonder.

Day two to follow….


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