This Week in London – Open House London’s 25th; the London Design Festival; the ‘discovery’ of Roman London; and, the story of the Scythians retold…

Open House London marks its 25th anniversary this weekend, with free entry into more than 800 of the city’s buildings. For the first time, every London borough is participating in the event which sees the doors flung wide on buildings including the recently revamped New Scotland Yard (right), the skyscraper One Blackfriars nick-named ‘The Vase’ (above), an urban farm in Waterloo and the Francis Crick Institute at King’s Cross as well as traditional crowd-pleasers like BT Tower, William Morris’s Red House and the office towers known as the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.  The weekend also features some 66 walks and talks. Open House have this year  launched a free app which, available for both Android and Apple, allows users to plan their weekend, view nearby buildings, and filter results by day, architectural type and period. To download the app and to see the full programme of events, head to PICTURES: Top – CGI/Right – Tim Soar (Open House London).

The London Design Festival, now in its 15th year, also kicks off this weekend with a programme of 450 projects and events across the coming week. The V&A will once again form the festival hub with iconic spaces within the museum transformed by a series of special commissions and displays including an immersive coloured light experienced known as Reflection Room and a 21.3-metre-long uid and free-standing three dimensional tapestry called Transmission. Somerset House will host a new group exhibition called Design Frontiers featuring 30 leading international designers while the Oxo Tower Wharf Courtyard will host a specially created micro house, called URBAN CABIN – one of many ‘landmark projects’ to be seen during the week. The festival runs until 24th September. For more – including the full programme of events, see

The rediscovery of Roman London under the modern city is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the City this week. The Discovery of Roman London, with a display of objects, archives and 19th century illustrations, looks at the early pioneers of Roman London archaeology over the past three centuries and the establishment of the Guildhall Museum – the precursor to the Museum of London – in 1826 to provide a suitable place for the found artefacts. Runs until 30th November. Entry is free. For more, follow this link.

The story of ancient nomadic tribes known as the Scythians is told in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia features more than 200 objects, many of which have been preserved under permafrost, providing fascinating insights into the lives of the Scythian tribes who lived between 900 and 200 BC. The objects include fur-lined clothes, headgear for horses, gold jewellery, weapons, wooden drinking bowls and even tattooed human remains. There are also a series of painted clay death masks decorated to resemble the faces of the dead which are being shown alongside a reconstructed log-cabin tomb in which they were found. Runs until 14th January in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery. Supported by BP, the exhibition has been organised in partnership with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Admission charge applies. For more, see

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This Week in London – Cosmonauts at the Science Museum; space on show at the Royal Observatory; Simon Schama’s portrait picks; and, celebrating iconic road signs…

Vostock- The greatest collection of Soviet spacecraft and artefacts ever exhibited outside of Russia can be seen at the Science Museum from tomorrow. Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age tells the story of Russia’s involvement in the ‘space age’ from the late 19th century through to life onboard Mir and the International Space Station. Exhibits cover the 1957 launch of Sputnik – the world’s first artificial satellite, the sending of the first human into space – Yuri Gagarin, in 1961, as well as the first women – Valentina Tereshkova – in 1963. Star objects include rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s 1933 drawings depicting spaceflight, an original model of Sputnik from 1957, and Vostok-6, the capsule that carried Tereshkova, as well as some of the many technologies developed for use on board the Salyut and Mir space stations and the ISS. The exhibition, a collaboration between the Science Museum, the State Museum Exhibition Centre ROSIZO and the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, runs at the South Kensington museum until 13th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see PICTURE: Visitors study the Vostok 6 descent module, which safely returned Valentina Tereshkova from space. © Science Museum

Still talking of space and an exhibition of images of space goes on show at the Royal Observatory Greenwich from tomorrow. The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2015 awards, now in its seventh year, received more than 2,700 entries from amateurs and professionals who live in more than 60 countries across the globe. The winners, which will be announced today at a special ceremony at the Royal Observatory, were selected from short-listed pictures which include a meteor flying through space above Mt Ranier in the US, the night sky mirrored on the world’s largest salt flat of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, and images capturing a range of phenomena from across the universe – from the hyper giant star, Eta Carinae, to the supernova remnant known as the Jellyfish Nebula. The exhibition is free. For more, see

Historian Simon Schama has joined with the National Portrait Gallery in creating five new temporary displays featuring portraits arranged by theme rather than year. Simon Schama’s The Face of Britain, which coincides with the launch of a five part TV series and book, will feature a range of portraits taken from the gallery’s collection around the themes of power, love, fame, people and self-portraits. It juxtaposes portraits of the likes of former PM Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher with Queen Elizabeth I; and those of explorer Francis Drake and Thomas Carlyle alongside Amy Winehouse. The displays are integrated into a free trail with eight to 12 works in each of the five rooms. A full programme of events accompanies the displays which will be in the gallery, just off Trafalgar Square, until 4th January. Admission is free. For more, see

The London Design Festival kicks off on Saturday and as part of the event, the Design Museum is marking the 50th anniversary of Calvert and Kinneir British road signage with a free exhibition. MADE NORTH has commissioned a number of leading designers and artists to create their own interpretations of Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir’s circle, triangle and square signs including Sir Peter Blake, Sir Terence Conran, Sir Keith Grange, Betty Jackson, Julian Opie and Richard Rogers. A display of more than 40 of the new signs – along with a number of Calvert and Kinneir originals and a one-off version of the Road Works sign specially created by Calvert – are on show at a free installation in the Design Museum’s Tank and Riverside Hall until 25th October. More of the newly designed anniversary signs can be seen at locations across the city and at For more on the London Design Museum, see, and for the full programme of the London Design Festival, which runs until 27th September, check out

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LondonLife – Steps to nowhere…


Inspired by Escher’s staircase, the London Design Festival’s landmark project Endless Stair has taken up residence outside the Tate Modern overlooking the River Thames. Designed by Alex de Rijke of dRMM and Dean of Architecture at the Royal College of Art (in collaboration with AHEC, ARUP, Nüssli, Imola Legno, SEAM and Lumenpulse), the 187 step stairway is constructed from a series of giant interlocking staircases shaped from American tulipwood. The stairway will be in place until 10th October. The London Design Festival, meanwhile, kicked off on Saturday and runs until 22nd September. It features more than 300 events with the V&A once again the festival’s central hub. For more – including a full programme of events –  see www.londondesignfestival.comPICTURE: Cityscape


Around London – Design Festival in full swing; museum acquires rare merchant figure; Olympic medals on display; and, remembering Polish, Czech and Slovak airmen…

• The London Design Festival is in full swing in London this week with more than 250 events taking place across the city over its 10 days. Launched last Saturday, the festival runs until Sunday and there’s still plenty of time to get involved. Among the highlights is a series of events, workshops and talks being held at the Victoria & Albert Museum (where you can also see 12 specially commissioned installations, one of which sees the museum’s grand entrance transformed with a sculptural form), a series of shows focusing on design in six London “design districts” – Brompton, Pimlico Road, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch, and a broad program of ‘partner’ and ‘international’ events – everything from a festival featuring African-Caribbean design through to an exhibition of experimental chairs by the Danish Cabinetmaker’s Association. To find out more, simply head to

The Museum of London has announced the purchase of a rare 18th century clay figure of London druggist and tea merchant Thomas Todd. The figure, which was acquired with the help of the Art Fund and MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund,  is one of only two known portrait works attributed to the Chinese artists Chitqua on show in Britain. The figure, which is made from unfired clay held together by bamboo and brightly painted, was acquired from Todd’s great, great, great, great grand nephew, Thomas Todd, and will appear shortly in the Expanding City Gallery in the Galleries of Modern London. Based in Fleet Street, Pat Hardy, the museum’s curator of paintings, prints and drawings, says Todd “epitomised the kind of business acumen which ensured the growth of Britain’s industrial, mercantile and commercial empire in the eighteenth century”. For more, see

The British Museum has opened an exhibition giving the public their first chance to see next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games medals. Medals have been awarded at the Olympic Games since the first modern games were held in 1896. The latest Olympic medals were designed by jeweller David Watkins, for many years Professor of Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at London’s Royal College of Art, while the latest Paralympic Medals were designed by jeweller Lin Cheung, a senior lecturer for Jewellery Design at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The exhibition tells how, using minerals mined in the US and Mongolia (Rio Tinto is sponsoring the exhibition), the medals were produced at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, South Wales. Mine to medals: the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games medals runs until 9th September next year. Admission is free. For more, see

• On Now: Brothers in Arms – Airmen of Poland and Czechoslovakia in the Battle of Britain & Beyond. The Royal Air Force Museum in Colindale, north London, is hosting an exhibition looking at the contribution of Polish, Czech and Slovak airmen in the Battle of Britain and their life afterwards. Curated in association with the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the exhibition features drawings, archival film footage and sculpture as well as uniforms, diaries and combat reports. Opened by Poland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sirkorski (who later attended the annual banquet held in honor of the Veterans of the Battle of Britain), it runs until 4th March, 2012. Entry is free. For more, visit