The 2017 London Festival of Architecture brings nostalgia and memory to the fore

Halogen New Covent Garden computer-rendered and shown from the air at night
Relive memories of New Covent Garden Market with Battersea-based filmmakers Chocolate Films, in a screening on 7 June hosted by Vinci St Modwen, in partnership with the Covent Garden Market Authority
(Image credit: TBC)

The London Festival of Architecture returns for its 13th edition, running from 1 – 30 June, centred on the theme of ‘memory’ and directed by Tamsie Thomson, previously director of RIBA London.

The festival brings together a diverse programme of over 450 events including talks from front running architects such as Richard Rogers and Kengo Kuma who have been strategic to shaping the city’s urban environments, as well as a plethora of walking tours and open studios across the capital, which offer more nuanced and focused angles on this year’s theme.

Architecture is central to how we formulate memories – we instinctively pin them to places and environments. A public square, doorway, park or even a curb, can recall an experience previously forgotten, as if you were retracing your own historic steps. Memory is an inherently human experience, and consequently a focus of the festival’s programming is housing estates, explored in relation to London’s current housing crisis.

Insight into the newest housing developments changing the landscape of London is revealed by WilkinsonEyre at Battersea Power Station and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners at the Riverlight development in Nine Elms conducting tours of the sites, while Alison Brooks presents an exhibition questioning future estate regeneration models, Mae Architects discuss the contemporary relevance of the decades old Boundary and Golden Lanes Estates and artist Mark Aitken presents a photographic series in the soon to be demolished Cressingham Gardens estate near Brixton.

Three images of architecture in different coloured panels

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Discover the top 20 events from the London Festival of Architecture

Many of the projects initiate collaborations between architects, artists, students, writers, academics and members of the community, creating a healthy space for critical, opposing and diverse opinions. And many architecture practices are throwing open their doors for visitors to explore studios, see exhibitions and meet the people working on projects across their city.

A must visit ‘hub’ of the LFA is the Royal Docks area, where the Carlsberg Tetley Building is hosting an immersive theatre experience and tours of the local Silvertown area are being led. This area is at the beginning of a period of redevelopment, so it is a nice moment to head east, explore some derelict buildings and make some memories.

For a further taste of architectural nostalgia, the ArchFilmFest, which is running concurrently in partnership with the LFA, will explore historic urban landscapes of New York through The Fountainhead (1949), Paris through Playtime (1967) and Liverpool through Of Time and the City (2008). While exploring how film can also create fictive environments (Los Angeles plays itself, 2003, or Synecdoche, New York, 2008) that might make us question where the line between memory and imagination falls.

In a city such as London that is constantly in flux, it is important to step back and consider which memories might be at risk of being forgotten, which ones should definitely be forgotten, and the role architecture can play in creating happy new ones.

Kensal Green Cemetery

An architectural tour of Kensal Green cemetery is hosted by the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery and Historic England is taking place on 11 June

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Digital image of a modern building nestled between old tenement buildings

On 21 June, BuckleyGrayYeoman hosts a panel discussion, which asks the question ‘How can we find a home for art in London?’

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Digital image of a long, narrow building with bright red panels

The Trampery, a social enterprise specialising in workspaces, explores the importance of repurposing structures and environments in a talk titled ‘Radical repurposing: a cure for urban amnesia’ on 28 June

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Looking down a bright stairwell towards the ground floor

As part of the programme, AECOM presents a talk on 6 June that will share its unique experience of London through drawings and photography

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Design of building interior which is almost transparent and with silhouettes of people

The Japanese Junction pops up in London at TOTO Gallery until 30 June

(Image credit: TBC)


The London Festival of Architecture runs until 30 June. For more information, visit the website

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.