Architectural Features; Art Installations and Dance Displays Will Enliven the Buildings during Open House Weekend

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THROUGH the Keyhole and Hello! magazine both thrive on the fact that there are few greater thrills than poking around someone else's home. But mass-media nosy-parkerism is a poor substitute for exploring a beautifully designed building for yourself.

The annual Open House weekend (21-22 September) unlocks hundreds of exceptional buildings to the public. This year, the area around St Pancras sees a small pocket of properties not just opening their doors, but also becoming the venues for exhibitions and dance.

Is the focus on St Pancras deliberate? "It's just come about, really," says Victoria Thornton, director of Open House. "King's Cross has an energy. The Place [the venue in Euston Road associated with dance] has just been refurbished, and this will be the last year that St Pancras Chambers is open before being redeveloped - it is its finale, as it were."

The forthcoming closure of St Pancras Chambers is strong enough reason for making the former Midland Grand Hotel first on your list. It is host to the exhibition Shine, in which 11 artists have made pieces in response to the building. These vary from neon signage by the ubiquitous Tracey Emin to Shane Waltener's use of a disco mirrorball to project fragmented phrases around a room.

"Artwork illuminates space and brings it back to life," explains Emma Underhill, one of the show's curators. Certainly Waltener's piece, together with the commissioned "aural environment" by violinist Alexander Cameron, attempts to reignite the redundant building's former life.

Other artists have gone for a more straightforward form of illumination: Martin Maloney, the artist at the forefront of Saatchi's "Neurotic Realist" tendency a few years back, has transferred his attention from canvases to table lamps. Eighteen of these have been collaged with garish figurative scenes and placed snugly into niches along the four-storey main staircase.

The exquisitely looping stairs are also the focus for German artist Andreas Oehlert, who has made a stunning tunnel of shimmering silver balloons rising through the stairwell, to be viewed reclining on silver cushions at its base.

Further down Euston Road, the placid caryatids outside St Pancras Church seem a civilisation away from the Gothic confections of Sir George Gilbert Scott's hotel, but are only 50 years younger. The church's crypt is the venue for an exhibition whose emphasis is on luminescence. …


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