Join Open City for a walking tour exploring Pimlico, one of central London’s most architecturally enigmatic and often overlooked districts
Pimlico, described by acclaimed architecture critic and former resident Ian Nairn as an ‘inner-city village’ in the 1970s, can often feel confusing, indistinct, and uncharted — a shadow sandwiched in between some of the world’s most famous postcodes.
Nairn himself affectionately called it ‘Westminster behind the Abbey’ in his influential 1966 guidebook, Nairn’s London. But for many of those who live there, it’s an oasis of calm at the centre of a bustling metropolis.
This engaging and accessible walking tour — led by Golden Key Academy graduate Joe Brookes —starts at Pimlico Station – and taking inspiration from the 1949 comedy Passport to Pimlico, which sees the district declare itself an independent state – we will discover this area’s unique character and ask whether the ‘village’ Nairn promoted as a model for communal living still exists.
From Thomas Cubitt’s avenues of stucco terraces to the utopian visions of Dolphin Square, Churchill Gardens and the Lillington Gardens Estate, this tour aims to shine a light on a number of architectural gems, offering an engaging journey through interlocking pockets of faded Georgian grandeur, interwar glamour and post-war futures.
Providing a fun way for enthusiastic urbanists to explore the city, we will question inherited notions of a ‘centre’ and the boundaries which constitute urban landscapes; examine the conditions necessary for community, particularly the interplay between public and private space; consider the impact of transport on the area’s development, including looking at how Pimlico’s mid-20th century road system foreshadowed the contemporary policy of low-traffic neighbourhoods; and compare Pimlico’s patchwork of community hubs with the commercial ‘placemaking’ of its southbank counterpart, Nine Elms.
Ultimately, we will consider whether Pimlico, and the concept of the urban village which Nairn's analysis seems to echo, is really an ideal for living, while attempting to grasp just why this area is considered a ‘non-place’ for so many.
Open City is a charity dedicated to making London and its architecture more open, accessible and equitable.
Open City engages all citizens, particularly from under-represented backgrounds, in architecture and city-making. Our programmes – from the Open House Festival and its international network, to our pioneering education projects – open up buildings, conversations and careers to those normally locked out of them.