The Conway Hall

Open house London is an event that takes over the streets of London in the middle of September each year . (This year: yesterday and today)

Buildings which are not generally open to the public or which are not known , open their doors and offer guided tours to those who are interested in exploring what lies behind the facades of our city.

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We are awfully disorganised and every year tend to choose a place to lunch and then a selection of the places we can visit that are nearest to the area. This is how, last year, we came across the beautiful Conway Hall Building.

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The building ,which faces both Theobalds Road and the Red Lion Square gardens , is named after abolitionist Moncure Conway and it is the home of the South Place Ethical Society.

Conceived as a multipurpose building (see drawings and timeline here) in 1901 , it took many year to be realized, finally opening its doors to the public in September 1929.

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An oddity in the urban grid, this Grade 2 listed building (read details here ) is set in the corner of the square and it is made out of two volumes that hinge from it, addressing the surroundings unusually both head on and in parallel .  Its interiors unveil off the main circulation areas as one moves around them.

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The first floor humanist library, for the use of members , has a timeless quality where the smell of wood and books mixes under the beautiful light that floods the space.

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Walking into the main hall is like travelling back in time. The deco style wooden chairs upholster with velvety materials reminded me of the cinemas of my childhood back in San Sebastian , where the gap between the back and the seat always resulted in my father picking up the contents of his empty pockets from the floor.

If you are interested and would like to visit, be mindful that the Conway hall offers exhibitions, debates and other events on a regular basis. Follow this link for further details.

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Photographs by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Text by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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