Interested in the built environment? LFA has a wealth of online events and resources to explore.

The theme of 2020’s London Festival of Architecture is power. In a year when many of us feel powerless, it feels like an appropriate strand to explore. For architecture, at its best, has the power to be transformative: to help build communities and to provide solutions to work and living problems. There is an excellent gamut available here to get stuck into, from the thought-provoking to the fun. Here are our 2020 highlights, as the festival goes online for the first time in its history.

Rewilding The City: Social Housing, Mental Health and Wellbeing

Presented by the University of East London, this event explores the idea and creation of community spaces – both local and global – and their effect upon people’s lives. You can join them in Somers Town, Camden, a place that was seen as a testing ground for social housing in the twentieth-century, as they present design proposals and workshops. The organisers say, ‘By reclaiming the outside, as a space of opportunity for domestic gatherings, edible & medicinal gardens, educational environments, public readings, temporary markets, among others, we explore how ‘rewilding the city’ serves as a methodology for community-living, in a time where capitalistic and patriarchal structures are being questioned.’

30 Objects In 30 Days

Every Day In June
Did you love that BBC Radio 4 series, A History of the World in a 100 Objects? Us too. It was truly fascinating how zeroing in on these individual, often small, objects illuminated humanity’s history as a whole. This is architecture’s version, as the LFA asks 30 leading architects, designers, curators, writers, journalists to identify and present on video one object that signifies power in design to them. Interesting individually; even more so cumulatively.

The Power of Norwood High Street

Image: A Small Studio

7 June, 10am – 4pm
We love this site-specific workshop via Feast, which is presented by A Small Studio and aimed at getting primary school children thinking about the urban environment and making models. If you’re tuning in with your kids, fear not: the concept is interesting across the ages. It addresses the serious idea that the British High Street is in decline, posing the possibility that lockdown could, if handled the right way, lead to its re-emergence. It has chosen Norwood High Street to explore the notion. As the organisers say, ‘We think there is untapped potential in Norwood High Street, which is currently an area with limited commerce but with a wealth of industry, artists and makers working around its edges.’ It promises to deliver a radical re-think. See you there.

Crossness 360

Image: Adam Gray SWNS

8 June – 30 June
Ever wanted to tour London’s sewage system? Nope, us neither. However, the Grade I-listed Crossness Pumping Station, opened in 1865 and known as the ‘Cathedral on the Marsh’, is a thing of unexpected majesty. Designed by the civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of London’s first sewage system, its four beam engines carry the city’s waste into a reservoir, release it into the Thames via the tides, and then sweep out to sea. Now you can go on a virtual tour of this behemoth, and learn how ‘Bazalgette’s sewer system eradicated cholera, improved the life expectancy of Londoners and enabled the city to develop and prosper. Everyday, millions of Londoners still use Bazalgette’s sewers, they continue to provide the backbone of our 21st-century infrastructure.’ Powerful indeed.

Perfect Day

Image: Studio McLeod

12 June, 2pm – 5.30pm
This ticketed event will cost you £10. However, it may just be a tenner well spent. For its organisers, Studio McLeod is offering half-hour digital therapy ‘Perfect Day’ sessions, micro versions of its wider approach. The premise? To speedily get to the heart of what is important to each person’s emotional wellbeing and comfort. They say: ‘We’ve learnt that each participant’s ‘Perfect Day’ is very personal and often easier to achieve than first thought. This clarity offers the power to achieve greater happiness and sense of fulfilment. Each participant will receive their own framed ‘Perfect Day’. This keepsake is intended to be a reminder of a wonderfully simple moment, an incentive to collect more, and a powerful tool to realise a hidden goal.’

The Power Of A Home: A 1950s Estate in 2020 Lockdown

Image: Photograph by Sharon O'Neill /

25 June, 6.45pm – 7.45pm
Photographer Sharon O’Neill takes us on a virtual tour of a 1956 estate – the Fitzhugh Estate in Wandsworth – and explores, 64 years on, the lives of residents within the architect’s 20th-century vision of the modern world. Designed by Sir John Leslie Martin, principal architect of the Royal Festival Hall, his belief was in the power of a well-designed home to improve life. Sharon O’Neill’s tour asks: ‘Has the power of his ideas stood the test of time as the current residents live in the future of his 1930s vision and is there anything we can learn as we begin to emerge from our lockdown world?’

How Does School Building Design Empower Learning

Image: MEB Design Ltd

5 June, 6pm – 7pm
It is a generally accepted fact that our environment affects our powers of concentration and our wellbeing. But this MEB talk asks whether the very fabric itself of a building can aid learning, asking such specific questions as: ‘Can the engineer learn from the structure? Can the scientist learn from the environmental systems? Can the technician learn from the building technology? Can the artist learn from the composition? Can the sportsperson learn from the layout? Can the historian learn from the very fabric of the building?’ Thought-provoking.

Icon Therefore I Am

Image: fourth_space

9 June, 6.45pm – 8pm
The debate around the architectural icon has percolated for a long time. Now, in the time of pandemic, there is a new slant to the discussion. Since the argument for iconic often centres around tourism, in a travel restricted world, have we moved into a post-iconic phase? Bound to be lively.

Architecture Bake-Off – The Results

11 June, 5pm – 6pm
We love the annual meeting of the cutting-edge world of architecture with the cosy world of Bake Off. Make no mistake, it is fiercely contested, and just because we’re in lockdown, there’ll be no stopping these bakers of buildings competing against one another. After all, constructing a cake is certainly more satisfyingly instant than building a building – even if these creations are set to be demolished straight away. Want to get involved? It’s open to the public this year, though you’ll have to get your skates on and submit your creation by June 8.

Live From Aleppo

Image: Photographer: Georges Moubayed

12 – 13 June, 2pm – 3pm
Join a real-time tour through the heritage sites of old Aleppo. It will explore the post-fighting community efforts and initiatives to protect and save the city’s rich cultural heritage. The tour guides will be taking questions via YouTube too, so do come online ready to ask them.

The Power of Social Housing

Image: Pillar Visuals

17 June, 6pm – 8pm
Architects Annalie Riches, Sarah Wigglesworth and Chloe Phelps discuss social housing, examining the dual shortage alongside the fact that the design of what is being created is actually outstripping private housing (Goldsmith Street in Norwich, which won the RIBA Stirling Prize last year, is a case in point). It will look at shifting attitudes to social housing and the power of architects to create places in which people can live and prosper.

A Live Stream Tour Of Adolf Loos’ Villa Winternitz

Image: Villa Winternitz, David Cysar

18 June, 5pm
Anyone who has ever stepped foot inside the legendary bijoux Loos Bar in Vienna will not want to miss this opportunity to tour the great Czech-born modernist architect’s recently restored 1932 Prague Villa Winternitz. It was his last-ever project, and it is exemplary. Explore this ‘prime example of Loos’ Raumplan, an innovative spatial concept dividing a building into interconnected multi-level spaces. Discover a complex interior structuring the space into a sequence of stepped areas including an impressive double-height living room, a dining room and a drawing room with interior wall cut-outs framing views into adjoining rooms. This contrasts with the simple cubic shape and white, austere façade of the villa, divided only by terraces and windows and embodying the principles expounded by Loos in his seminal essay ‘Ornament and Crime’.’ Not to be missed.

People Powered Homes

Image: Warwick Sweeney

18 June, 5pm – 7pm
This group discussion will shine a light on the stories of communities that have empowered themselves to lead housing projects in their local areas. As the organisers rightly say, ‘They’re showing that housing can be more than a financial asset; it can bring people together and give them power.’ Join them to hear inspirational stories and pick up tips for how you may do similar in your area.

The Power of Art in The Public Realm

Image: James Ewing

24 June, 5pm
Architecture and art have a long history of going hand-in-hand. This talk promises to look at its critical role in urban spaces and development. They say: ‘Our talk will consider the role of artist as contributor to the design approach and look at permanent and temporary installations and how they activate the space to create dynamic places.’

Home Is Where The Health Is

24 June, 12pm – 1pm
How will the coronavirus epidemic affect architects’ approach to building homes? The pandemic will, surely, have an impact on shared and public spaces within residential building but, as the organisers of this event say, ‘Novel constraints always bring opportunities – to explore new building types, offer new combinations of use, and to work with the local climate to improve well being.’ Presented by BAA’s Ben Adams and KAP’s Michael Katsibas.

The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be, Suhair Khan And Gonzalo Herrero In Conversation
25 June, 1pm – 1.45pm
Suhair Khan works for Google and has led major collaborations for Google Arts & Culture. Gonzalo Herrero Delicado is a curator, writer, architect and the Architecture Programme Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts. They come together to talk about the rapid pace of change in digital technologies and how they are affecting the way we engage with world around us – and most especially in this context, the way we view creative work. As it becomes more and more common to view work virtually or create installations using virtual reality, these two speakers address how ‘these shifts are raising many questions both for artists, architects and designers, as well as cultural institutions… How can a virtual experience supersede a physical visit to a museum? And what will be the future of spaces dedicated to culture and how are creatives embracing this shift?’

The Future Of The Pub

Image: Ben Pipe

25 June, 6.30pm – 7.45pm
We wind up with a subject dear to many of our hearts: the future of the pub. As many remain closed, Mackenzie Wheeler, the architects of the 2020 CAMRA/Heritage England New Build Pub of the Year will settle into the snug of CAMRA's virtual pub, the Red (On)Lion, for a chat. He’ll ask what it is we, as a nation, love so much about the pub, and – crucially – ‘how they should be designed for the future to ensure that they remain central to our lives, our communities and our society.’ Imperative.

By Nancy Alsop
June 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.