Every year, more than 800 landmark buildings in London throw their doors open to the general public in a scheme called Open House London. The scheme enables the public to witness at first hand buildings of architectural, cultural or other significance that are normally off-limits to them. This year, for the first time, IMO is participating.
The IMO headquarters was purpose-built for the Organization by the UK Government to a design by architects Douglas Marriott Worby & Robinson and opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1983. Among its most significant original design features is the effective and extensive use of wood, for which it won the prestigious Carpenters’ Award from the Worshipful Company of Carpenters in 1983.
Perhaps the most striking internal feature is the main debating chamber, in which delegations from IMO’s 174 Member states regularly meet to decide safety and environment policies for international shipping. Externally, the building is notable for the 7m high, ten-tonne bronze statue by Michael Sandle, which was added in 2001. It depicts a lone seafarer keeping lookout on the prow of a merchant ship.
The building underwent a major internal refurbishment in 2007 before being re-opened in 2008 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester.
IMO is the only UN agency to be headquartered in London. Its iconic headquarters building, on the south bank of the River Thames, will be open to the public on 22-23 September.