It's that time of year again. The Open House listings are live on the web, the green books are plopping through people's letter boxes. And as usual there's a mad scramble to book tours of the most 'prestigious' venues.
The booking system last year was a fiasco; the servers crashed leading to reams of irate complaints on facebook - some people's entire lives seemed to have been ruined by their inability to get through. While there's an undeniable attraction in the possibility of visiting a high-profile venue that's not generally open to the public and a certain kudos to having it ticked off your list there are always plenty of other places to visit and you might even discover a hidden local gem.
This year there are no bookings operated by Open House as they "go back to the true ethos of the event" in line with their mission " to make architecture accessible to all." It's chicken and egg really; with bookings there are bound to be a lot of disappointed people but some will get in at their appointed time; without bookings there will be huge queues at the most popular venues. One of these is the Gherkin. It's open for 20-minute tours, 30 people at a time on a first come basis from 8am - 4pm on Saturday and 9am - 4pm on Sunday. On previous occasions people have started queueing the night before and by early morining the queue has been closed as no-one not already in it would have any chance of getting in. I will manage to visit one day but I'm certainly not going to queue up all day to do it! Unfortunately it's excluded from the volunteer priority pass...
There are still around 100 of the 830 buildings and events in this year's programme that require booking through the venue itself. The ever-vigilant Ian Visits has compiled a useful list of them although no doubt most of them are fully booked by now. I've just heard that I haven't been lucky with Home House but still waiting to hear about The Oriental Club. But I have managed to book a tour of 55 Broadway on Saturday - perhaps the last chance as it's scheduled to be redeveloped as flats. (I see most tours are now fully booked but there's still space on the 12:30 one if you're quick.) For the rest of the day I'm going to take advantage of my volunteer pass to jump a few queues. (Although I might still be lucky in the ballot for Downing Street or Gray's Inn - still time to enter that if you haven't already, open until 13 September.)
On the Sunday I'll be guiding at Chandos House. Only open on Sunday and you don't need to book so pop in if you're in the area - although I have no idea what the queue might be like.

PS. For anyone who didn't know, Open House weekend is 21-22 September!

Update: Just heard I've been lucky enough to get a booking for a tour of the Oriental Club. Going to be an Adam weekend...