White City Walking Tour with Open City Friends, Saturday 17 February 11am

White City Walking Tour with Open City Friends, Saturday 17 February 11am

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Join Open City Friends for walking tour exploring the fascinating architectural history of White City, once the home of an enormous 140 acre exhibition space and ornamental gardens dubbed the ‘Great White City’

This fun and engaging walk - led by local resident and Golden Key Academy graduate Joanna Oyediran - will explore how White City’s built environment has transformed multiple times in the past century and discussing what developers have emphasized and downplayed about the area's heritage to attract people to the area.

A swathe of farmland located on the northern Fringes of Shepherd’s Bush was transformed in the early 1900s into the Great White City, a spectacular exhibition space, inspired by the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The Great White City, so named because all its buildings were uniformly white, was the idea of the Hungarian impresario Imre Kiralfy.

The exhibition space he conceived transformed 140 acres of former farmland, covering it with pavilions, waterways, bridges and gardens. There were amusement rides, such as the legendary Flip-Flap, and, controversially from today’s perspective, colonial villages. The entire area was illuminated by electric lighting. The exhibition space fell into decline with the outbreak of World War I, but gave a foretaste for the succession of schemes that followed, covering the gamut of modern urban development.

This walk traces the transformation of the White City area over the past 114 years and explores how these changes have impacted the physical environment and the lives of the people who reside there. We will explore why this area has consistently attracted enormous projects since its construction in the 1900s as a huge site for exhibitions, entertainment and sport.

Since World War I White City has gone through multiple transformations. In the 1930s, part of the area was redeveloped for London County Council's most ambitious dense interwar housing estate. In 1960 BBC Television Centre opened, one of the world’s first purpose-built sites for TV production and broadcasting. With its designation as an Opportunity Area in 2004  by the Greater London Authority, White City has again become a magnet for development.

The tour will take you through Television Centre, now sensitively reimagined as a mixed use neighbourhood of home, offices and leisure facilities, as well as television production. We will visit the UK's first public Japanese garden, the remaining feature of the original ‘Great White City’. We will explore the White City Estate and hear how its construction marked a turning point in the LCC’s approach to slum clearance.

Designated as an opportunity area under the London Plan in 2004, the White City neighbourhood is again a magnet for ambitious developments, such as Westfield London, Europe’s biggest shopping mall; a reimagined Television Centre, following the BBC’s sale of the site; and Imperial College’s White City Campus. The tour will finish at the site of the 1908 Olympic Games.