'If you begin to be what you are, you will realise everything, but to begin to be what you are, you must come out of what you are not.'
Advaita tradition of the Study Society
London open house
The 73 page booklet "21-22 September 2002, Free entry to more than 500 buildings across the capital. London Open House, Celebrating London's architecture" has been in my possession for more than a month now.
There are too many choices. Should I go to Westminster where there are 88 buildings open to the public? Or should I start in the borough where I live? There are churches, manor houses, office buildings, converted warehouses, oddly shaped buildings, and private homes.
Ideally, I'd like to visit private homes because they are usually not open to the public. These are homes that have spectacular architectural interest to me. Perhaps I like to keep dreaming.
Yesterday, I cycled to Barons Court and picked up my friend for this event. I thought we only had time for one building. Later, by not going to my Ashtanga Yoga class, we had time for three.
The Palace Wharf facing the River Thames houses some 80 artists. It was built in 1907 as a wharf for marble importing, later a decorative plaster works. It's got high ceilings and natural light from the see-through parts of the slanted roof. But without central heating, it must be awfully cold in the winter as heat rises. I was most impressed with Fiona Lennon's installation. In a darkened room, we saw moving light accompanied by sound and music. I don't know how she did it, but it had a trance-like effect.
If artists need studios, what about musicians? Our studios need soundproofing -- a lot more work than artists' needs.
At Colet House, I got the chance to play on their three Bluthner grands. The one in the room on the left was the best and brightest. The building is owned by the Study Society, short for the Society for the Study of Normal Psychology. The Medici Quartet practises and gives concerts there. It's a lovely building with lots of space, high ceilings that are painted in dark colours because of the dust from the busy Talgarth Road (leading to the A4). Built around 1885, it is the largest of a part of beautifully designed terrace of houses originally known as 1-9 St Paul's Studios. Back in those days, Talgarth Road was a cul de sac, surrounded by fields. Today, Colet House is sandwiched in between a busy motorway (Talgarth Road) and Barons Court Underground Station.
With only 15 minutes left, my friend and I cycled to the Bhavan Centre, also known as the Institute of Indian Culture. Here different Indian languages (Tamil, Gujerati, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit) are taught, as are music and dancing. How interesting that it's housed in a cruciform church! The academic director said that they didn't believe religious holidays should only be practised by those who believed in the particular religion. They are following the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna from Calcutta who concluded that all religions are good if they take you along the path to detachment. If you're detached, you don't have an ego. If you don't have an ego, you have no desire. If you have no desire, you won't hate. By detachment, he means not having to depend on something or someone.
Living in London is more interesting than I have ever imagined. I'm discovering new things everyday. If it is at all possible, I would like to visit all the buildings listed in the London Open House booklet!!!!
23 September 2002 Monday
London Open House is an annual event, taking place over a weekend in September. It celebrates architecture, which is considered a symbol of a city's culture, its identity, its personality.
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