Open House – London

20-21 September 2003

The weekend architectural event of Open House has now become a popular annual event in London. Many buildings of architectural interest that are not normally open to the public throw open their doors to the curious. Paul Waite, who has organised many London tours of Lutyens Buildings was approached by John Forster of GFK Ltd. for help to man 36 Smith Square, a neo-Georgian house designed by Lutyens in 1908 for Reginald McKenna when he was pursuing a successful political career in the Liberal party. Four members of the Lutyens Trust, Christine and Andrew Barnett, Janet Allen and Michael Hanson acted as guides. The house is built on a restricted site in Smith Square; Lutyens provided domestic offices on the ground floor. A grand staircase rising to the first floor, where there was a drawing-room, library and dining room was designed in his Wrenaissance style. The house was subsequently bought in 1928 by Lord and Lady Melchett who remodelled the drawing room and dining room; the library is the only Lutyens interior to survive. During the war, the house suffered bomb damage, and the Melchett drawing-room was destroyed. Subsequently, the house was converted into office accommodation and the magnificent staircase removed to make space for a lift shaft and cloakroom. Visitors from all over England streamed through the house.