Once a month at “Last Tuesdays” RIBA opens its doors to the public for a peak at its beautiful art deco base, and a browse through various free exhibitions and events, Helen Martin Glaberson checks it out.
The Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA has introduced a new “open door” initiative, on the last Tuesday of every month, which allows members of the public – from architecture lovers to those with purely with a passion or interest – to pop into 66 Portland Place, the institute’s London base.
These monthly late-night open door events seems to be catching on for many of London’s public institutions – allowing you to soak in their cultural offerings in a peaceful calm, void of the usual bustle of crowds or wining kids often encountered during day hours.
Set in RIBA’s stunning Art Deco building, you can enjoy an array of topical events and exhibitions, along with a drink and a spot of fine dining – if you so wish.
March’s event saw plenty of exhibitions to delve into, such as “Focus on Pugin”, with highlights from the RIBA Collection to mark the bi-centenary of the architect’s birth and a film. And also “Bata-ville: We are not afraid of the future (2005)”, a film about a coach trip to the origins of the Bata shoe empire in the Czech Republic.
We enjoyed “A Place to Call Home” exhibition, which told the story of everyday homes in Britain, from Georgian times, to the “Right to Buy” Thatcher era, through to the present day. Finishing with a question, asking us what is our ideal home? Indeed something that is not necessarily easy to define.
There was an optional guided tour of the exhibition, led by Mike Althorpe, Public Programmes Manager at RIBA, which was informative and engaging. Althorpe, told Futurespace Magazine the aim of these “Last Tuesday” exhibitions is to present an accessible story to the public, free from fancy architectural terms where the curators don’t assume knowledge. For these reasons, I imagine Tuesday sessions will have quite wide appeal. And there’s more than enough to stimulate for those with a deeper knowledge, Althorpe for example, is on hand to pick his brains after the tour.
If you didn’t make it down to RIBA this week, don’t worry there’s still time, as the exhibition continues to run at RIBA until 28th April.
Once you’ve finished perusing what “Last Tuesdays” has to offer, you can polish off the evening at the institutes’s beautiful a la carte restaurant, offering a chance to absorb its broad and beautifully spacious room. Although it’s rather up market, the place retains quite a natural, relaxed vibe, as visitors mingle around the centre of the venue, where various architectural models are on show.
For starters, we enjoyed the exquisitely presented Wye Valley Asparagus and Black Leg Chicken Consommé (or “chicken lollipop” which was exactly that, a delicious morsel in a pool of gravy and Sautéed Morels), followed by Saddle of Cornish lamb, Crisp Belly and Grilled fillet of Seabass on a bed of risotto, finishing up with a truly intense Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart and deliciously fresh and creamy Baked Apple and Cinnamon Cheesecake.
As you would expect, the dishes where perfectly crafted, each one nothing short of a visual masterpiece. The set meals are also really good value for the food, service and setting, at £23.50 for a three course meal.
This was a great to end our first “Last Tuesday” session. What was best about the whole evening, from the exhibition through to the evening meal was the non-pretention about it all – just as Althorpe promised. It would be so easy for this to feel like an exclusive, architecture club, but here, you feel everyone is welcome to delve in and explore. It’s certainly worth dipping your toe into some of these truly engaging exhibitions, or even just to pop in for a quick nosey around the fabulous interior of 66 Portland Place.
When: Every last Tuesday of the month, 6pm-10pm
Where: RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London
Cost: Most exhibitions are free (some events cost £5)