History & heritage

Paddington’s Open House gems

Discover Paddington’s amazing design heritage inside hidden houses, offices and gardens around the area

Open House weekend is the best time of year for the nosey design-lover. Paddington Central and the surrounding area offers many exciting gems to visit over the weekend – or sneak a peek from the outside at any time of year!

1. 4 Kingdom Street
The newest addition to the Paddington Central campus is an office building with hidden pockets of fun. It’s designed with the wellbeing of its occupants in mind, providing refreshing roof terraces, glass pod meeting rooms, private corners for contemplation and plenty of greenery. Perhaps the most fun feature, though, is London’s highest basketball court.

Paddington Central, W2 6BD
Saturday and Sunday, 10.00–17.00
Tours at 11.00 and 14.00

2. Hallfield Primary School
This 1953 masterpiece was designed by English architect Sir Denys Lasdun, whose best-known work is the Royal National Theatre, London. Hallfield was scaled down to suit its tiny inhabitants, with the organic layout of the original school compared by Lasdun to that of an unfurling plant. A cluster of single-storey buildings for infants is enclosed by a two-storey building of junior classrooms, with the spaces between filled with trees and shrubs, creating an intimate atmosphere inside and out. Two new buildings were added by architect duo Caruso St John in 2005.

Hallfield Estate, W2 6HF
Saturday, 14.00–16.45, tours every 10 minutes

3. Home House
Commissioned by the Countess of Home in 1773, this is probably the greatest surviving Georgian town house in the capital. Although the house was built by George III’s architect James Wyatt, he was dismissed as principal architect in 1775 and replaced by his Scottish rival, Robert Adam. Adam fitted out the shell of a house with sumptuous neo-classical interiors and instilled it with a sense of fun, creating plenty of details to delight guests.

20 Portman Square, W1H 6LW
Sunday, 15.00–17.00, tours every 60 mins
History talk at 15.00 (booking required, email: openhouse@homehouse.co.uk)

4. Royal Parks Foundation Education Centre
An eco-friendly building that mixes the modern and the historic. Sitting on top of a Victorian reservoir, this building was designed to invoke the canopy of a tree. Its vibrant living roof helps it blend into the surroundings of Hyde Park. Designed by David Morley Architects in 2012, many of the materials used are from sustainable sources: a green oak frame, cedar shingle cladding and cork flooring, to name just a few examples. It’s also the winner of a regional RICS award.

Hyde Park, W2 2UH
Saturday and Sunday, 11.30–15.30, hourly tours

5. St Mary Magdalene-in-Paddington Parish Church
You may have seen this Grade I listed Victorian gothic church before – it’s starred in hit TV shows Poirot and Lewis, as well as the Elizabeth Taylor film The Secret Ceremony and The Constant Gardener with Ralph Fiennes. The church was by GE Street, the architect responsible for the Royal Courts of Justice, who was a member of the parish, which at the time served the inhabitants of a densely packed slum. The interior features all sorts of beautiful decorations – the crypt is adorned with gilt work, designed by Ninian Comper, including a blue vault covered in golden stars.

Rowington Close, W2 5TF
Saturday, 10.00–15.00, hourly tours (booking required, email: lucy@pdt.org.uk)

6. Westbourne Gardens
A short walk from Paddington Station, Westbourne Gardens is a tranquil escape, a lush green space hidden between Georgian town houses. And inside one of those Georgian town houses, you’ll find 50c Westbourne Gardens. A masterclass in making the most of space, this tiny flat is only 45m2, but intertwines original architectural details with modern design. Get there early, they can only cram in 10 visitors at a time!

50c Westbourne Gardens, W2 5NS
Saturday 10.00–17.00 and hourly architect-led tours from 11.00–16.00

7. New West End Synagogue
Another Grade I listed masterpiece, this striking synagogue was designed by George Ashdown Audsley and opened in 1877. Audsley is the architect behind the Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool, which has a number of similar features. The entrance is impressive enough, but step inside to see an incredible array of stained glass and metalwork, and a mosaic made by Audsley himself.

St Petersburgh Place, W2 4JT
Sunday 10.00–14.00

Interior of New West End Synagogue