66 Portland Place is very much a working building with a multitude of uses and facilities for the public. The RIBA’s venues and facilities team over the weekend were able to successfully transform the building several times, which began as a stopping point on the Maggie’s London Night Hike on Friday evening, then was made ready for Open House London before Saturday morning, and by the afternoon of the same day was a venue suitable for a large wedding.

The Open House and RIBA's What's On brochures

The Open House and RIBA's What's On brochures

Open House: RIBA British Architectural Library staff

Open House: RIBA British Architectural Library staff

Tours
The building is at its best when it is busy, during Saturday the RIBA headquarters welcomed several hundred visitors as part of Open House. The RIBA British Architectural Library led three architectural tours that day, all fully signed up, taking visitors to spaces that are normally closed to the public. Through the architecture of this building, the tours were able to tell the history of the RIBA, stretching from the 19th century when it was located at 9 Conduit Street, to the present day with the election of the latest President of the RIBA.

Open House: 1st tour, led by Dr Elizabeth Grant

Open House: 11am, 1st tour, led by Dr Elizabeth Grant

Open House: 2nd tour, led by Jason Canham

Open House: 12.30pm, 2nd tour, led by Jason Canham

Open House: 3rd tour, led by Karen Wilman

Open House: 2pm, 3rd tour, led by Karen Wilman

Displays and children’s activities
The day was also marked by a special exhibition of journals and architects’ drawings from the Library collections. Children were exploring 66 Portland Place during Open House by following scavenger hunts and learning about architecture through displays and organised activities. For younger visitors there were a range of books, including pop-ups based on the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. With the help of staff armed with glue, staples, and brightly coloured paper, quite a few children and adults left the RIBA sporting hats they made based on the skyline of London.

Open House: Display of pop-up books

Open House: Display of pop-up books

Open House: Display of books from the Library

Open House: Display of books from the Library

Open House: Hat making

Open House: Hat making

Open House: Crowds queuing up for a tour, entrance hall.

Open House: Crowds queuing up for a tour, entrance hall.

By the time you read this, RIBA HQ would have seamlessly returned back to normal and open to the public. If you missed this year’s Open House at the RIBA, you’ll have another chance as plans are already being made for 2012.

We hope everyone enjoyed Open House London 2011.

About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit www.architecture.com

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