2018 programme now closed

Returns next year 13-15 September 2019

Engineering in Focus

In association with the Institution of Civil Engineers

From transport systems to green tech, Bristol is on the cusp of major infrastructure investment. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and its members are the invisible superheroes of this transformation. As ICE celebrates its 200th birthday we uncover the city’s often unnoticed feats of civil engineering. www.ice.org.uk

New Bristol Architecture

In association with Royal Institute of British Architects

Bristol’s ever-changing streetscape has seen some exciting new additions in recent years. We’ve teamed up with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to highlight projects by RIBA Chartered Practices that are making the city a centre for design excellence. www.architecture.com

Places for People

In association with Arup

Bristol is consistently voted one of the UK’s top cities to live in, yet perspectives on what makes a ‘liveable’ city are changing rapidly. What type of vibrant places will Bristol need in future? Bristol Open Doors and Arup explore how people are creating new neighbourhoods and destinations across the city. www.arup.com

  • Saturday 10AM - 1PM

See how a 21st century architecture practice fits into a 17th century building at this exclusive talk and tour, an opportunity to see how Ferguson Mann Architects repurposed a building on one of the city’s most iconic streets to use as their main offices. You’ll hear about the design and history of the site from the conservation team, as well as the 2016 refurbishment challenge, before being taken on a guided tour.  

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Gain exclusive insight into the workings of an innovative asphalt plant, with tours every half hour. Discover how green technology fuels the manufacturing process and learn how asphalt is made and used. Climb the tower for estuary views and see the remains of a Second World War gun emplacement.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 12.30PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Be among the first to explore Bristol Old Vic’s multi-million-pound redevelopment before it opens fully to the public. Sneak a peek into the brand new, fully accessible foyer with its floor to ceiling glass windows, hear about the design from the Project Team themselves, and glimpse some of what’s been uncovered of the theatre’s 252-year history in specially curated tours.

 

Due to the ongoing site activity, we are no longer able to offer a preview of the nearly completed Studio Theatre or Coopers’ Hall, as mentioned in the Bristol Open Doors brochure.

 

Please note that tours have limited capacity and places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

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Dive to the hidden depths of Bristol’s past and into the network of tunnels underneath Temple Meads Station, originally designed by Brunel. Catch a glimpse of the air raid shelter and the original vaults used to service the station and trains. These tours are always extremely popular so book early.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 3PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 3PM

Event Update: Please note this event is a prebook event only. It is not drop-in a previously stated in the printed programme. 

  Ever wondered where your recycling goes once it has left your kerbside? Discover how valuable materials are separated and processed at the Albert Road depot. Take a tour of the transfer station and see what it takes to clean Bristol's streets.   Safety Requirements: Please note prior to booking the following safety requirements apply:
  • Safety shoes will need to be worn where available, if not all attendees must wear sturdy shoes (no sandals, crocs or pumps). Children are encouraged to wear wellies.
  • High Visibility waistcoats will be issued on the day
  • All children will have to be accompanied by adults on a 1:1 ratio
  • No unaccompanied walking around the site will permitted
  • No smoking is allowed on-site

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Delve into the vaults of the castle that gives the park its name. View models of the original castle and see films relating to the post-war creation of Castle Park after heavy bombing. Find out the varied history of the site Join guided tours of the park to spot remains of the castle that often go unnoticed.  

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Discover the only church now open for services in the old city of Bristol. Hear about the church’s history from passionate volunteers, hear a professional organist play, and catch a glimpse of one of the Quarter Jack figurines that struck the clock with their hammers for almost three centuries.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Sit in the council chamber, see civic regalia and discover the history of the city’s leadership engraved on the walls at City Hall, one of Bristol’s grandest buildings. See how the old blends with the new, from the historic first floor to the updates made during the building’s recent refurbishments.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 5PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 5PM

Drop by for a tour of the top station of this underground oddity, a funicular railway down the side of the Avon Gorge. Hear the reasons behind the construction of this complex piece of engineering, as well as its bankruptcy and later conversion into a wartime bunker.

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  • Saturday 11AM - 4PM

Rediscovered in 2002, the vaulted chambers in the Leigh Woods Abutment are an atmospheric piece of Brunelian engineering. Intrepid adventurers (over 7 years old) can don a hard hat, descend a ladder and peek through the door into Vault 4. You’ll be able to take a look into one of twelve chambers beneath the tower and see how the thick red sandstone walls were built on and around the sloping limestone rock of the Avon Gorge. Spot the stalactites forming on the ceiling and rubble left by Victorian builders. Want to know how we care for the bridge? Our Maintenance Workshops (in the Bridgemaster’s Yard) will be open once again with a display of tools, equipment and bits of bridge (old and new)! Find out how we clear ice and snow from the bridge in winter, how we remove and maintain parts – and how we reach the saddles and chain at the tops of the towers or the cross girders under the deck.

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  • Saturday 2PM - 4PM

How can Bristol become a city that allows children from all backgrounds to thrive? Led by Arup and based on their research about designing for children, this workshop will explore the importance of considering the young as the city rapidly develops. Suitable for all ages.  

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  • Saturday 10AM - 3PM

Find out how Brunel’s original station has been transformed into an exciting business hub, and see the art installation 'House of Mirrors' by Rob Olins. Drop in throughout the day, or meet the brains behind the project (and Engine Shed 2) on guided tours at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4AM

Drop by for a guided tour of Bristol City Council’s BREEAM Outstanding office and workshop space in Knowle West. Hear about the building's exceptional green design features and the role of the park as part of the sustainable development of South Bristol.

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  • Friday 9AM
  • Saturday 9AM
  • Sunday 9AM

Sweep yourself along the Floating Harbour on this unique stand-up paddleboarding tour, guided by qualified SUP Bristol instructors and an architecture expert. Perfect for early risers, and surely the best way to start your festival weekend. You'll need a moderate level of fitness but no previous paddleboarding experience is required.

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  • Friday 5PM - 8PM

Unload the historic cargo of this impressive Georgian building, now the home of Historic England and English Heritage. From the opulent home of a slave merchant to a refuge for sailors, hear how the stories of this building tell the larger tale of a maritime city, on tours every half hour.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Look inside one of the city’s most sustainable office buildings, with guided tours from the Environment Agency. See green design features, hear about the adaptions made to share the space with other government organisations, and learn about the work of the organisation.

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  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Soak up the splendour of one of Bristol’s lesser-known historic family homes, designed by the architect of Blenheim Palace. Join guided tours of the interior (on the hour) to hear about the history of the building and its recent renovations. Discover a secret garden in the newly landscaped grounds.

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In a special commission, artist Edson Burton re-creates a seminal moment in the history of Black Britain now lost to licensing laws, extended club hours and the changing population of the inner city. Part installation, part live event, Late Night Blues promises to be an evening to remember.

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  • Saturday 2PM

Join the academic lead for engagement for the new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus Tom Sperlinger, and CEO of Bristol SU Sam Budd in an open conversation about how students might participate in city life, and work with communities on shared projects.   Sam will share the work of Bristol Students' Union and including how students work with city partners through volunteering, events and student societies. Tom is keen to hear about how the Campus might integrate into central Bristol and feel open and accessible to all those who live and work in the area.

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  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Discover the historic home of Bristol’s Jewish congregation in this often overlooked sanctum. See out how the building was constructed to fit an awkwardly shaped site, admire the 17th century menorah, spot the antique prayer for the royal family and find out how the synagogue is linked with Bristol’s glassmaking tradition.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 3AM
  • Sunday 10AM - 3AM

Revell in the steeped history and national importance of Pegasus House, now home to Airbus. See inside the Grade II listed Art Deco building and hear how its story is intertwined with the evolution of Bristol’s aeroplane company.

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  • Saturday 11AM - 4PM
  • Sunday 11AM - 4PM

Step inside the Red lodge and pass through centuries of changing fortunes, from decadent entertaining space, to smart family home, to the lives of the girls of the Red Lodge Reformatory. Let Mary Henley, mistress of the house in the 1730s, welcome you in our new film, and don’t miss the beautiful Great Oak Room and the newly revealed 16th century well. Or relax for a while in the reinstated Elizabethan knot garden, the design of which was taken from the plasterwork ceiling of the master bedroom. Treasures on display include 16th century portraits, oak furniture, and Mary Carpenter’s piano.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Dig a little deeper into Bristol’s underbelly in this old mine complex. Take a self-guided tour through the tunnels, excavated from the 15th to 18th centuries for the red sandstone used to make glass. There’s no lighting, though, so bring a torch, sturdy shoes and a sense of adventure.

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  • Saturday 10.30AM, 1PM, 2.30PM

Let art help you learn to love an under-appreciated but significant feature of Bristol's buildings: their chimneys. Led by the co-founder of Bristol Urban Sketchers, Charlotte Murray, this fascinating sketch-walk will encourage you to look again at familiar buildings in the city’s historic centre. Please bring your own sketching materials.   The walk will stop at locations selected to showcase the splendid array of chimneys found in the city, where participants will be invited to make quick sketches of the smokestacks in front of them. Charlotte will give a brief commentary of the design and materials of each chimney and giving you some artistic advice. A great chance to experience first-hand how observational drawings can help you to notice the finer details, and well as picking up some drawing tips from your guide!

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Check up on Bristol’s award-winning hospital. Book a guided tour to find out about the design of the new Brunel building, winner of two prestigious RIBA awards in 2018. See the helipad, grass roofs and robots in action - and you may even get to peek inside an operating theatre.

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  • Saturday 9AM
  • Sunday 9AM

Anchors aweigh! Book a tour to join the team behind Bristol’s most famous ship. Find out the story behind this feat of nautical restoration and the challenges of maintaining it. Alternatively drop in to the Brunel Institute all weekend to pore over archives and take part in hands-on family activities.

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  • Friday 10AM - 4PM
  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Celebrate the reopening of St George’s after an ambitious project to create a contemporary extension to complement the historic and much-loved Grade II* listed concert hall. Discover the changing face of the building at an exhibition covering its construction in 1823 to its new life as a music venue.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Discover a whole new level to this Bristol icon. Climb to the church roof and bell tower (Bristol’s tallest building) and hear about the visits of Handel, Hogarth and Queen Elizabeth I. Learn how the church links to America, listen to music performances and get stuck in to family activities.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 3PM

Explore the winding corridors above the famous St Nicholas Market on this tour. Check out the antique safes and get behind the face of a clock with hands that show the times in Bristol and Greenwich. Then plunge into the dark cellars and explore the many uses of the vaults.

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  • Sunday 10AM - 3PM

See how a group of nondescript warehouses have become the home to a variety of worlds - including Wolf Hall, Broadchurch, The Crystal Maze and Poldark. Take a tour to learn about the development of the production studios, and open doors onto the thriving television industry right here in Bristol.

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  • Saturday 10.30AM, 1PM
  • Sunday 10.30AM, 1PM

Find out what drives Bristol’s ports on a 90-minute coach tour to see the inner workings of Royal Portbury and Avonmouth, two thriving docks. Learn what it takes to keep the cogs in motion at a deep-sea port and how today’s activities relate to Bristol’s long-standing maritime tradition.   Back by popular demand, this experience provides fascinating insight into the infrastructure of the region.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 12PM

Join renowned retro-fitters Ferguson Mann Architects for a tour of The Bristol Wing, an impeccably designed hostel in the old police headquarters on Bridewell Street. See restored features including a 1920s wire cage lift shaft, limestone façade, terrazzo floors and graffiti from decades past.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Take a sneak peek at this private members' club hidden in the heart of Clifton Village. Join guided tours to see the vast Regency rooms of the Grade II* listed building. As the Club celebrates its 200th anniversary, hear splendid stories and admire artefacts from the last two centuries.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Take this unique opportunity to look inside a zero carbon self-build co-housing project where sustainable homes connect to a flourishing community garden. Find out about co-housing, self-build and community living with the Bright Green Futures team. Special tours will also run at 10am, 12.00 and 2pm.

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  • Friday 10AM, 12.30PM

Discover the design features and decision processes behind The General, the award-winning residential conversion of the former Bristol General Hospital. Join a tour by developer City & Country to hear about how they transform challenging historical sites, share your thoughts about this landmark development and have your questions answered.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 12PM

Discover how the residents of Ashley Vale took on the developers - and won. Ecomotive will explain how they turned a dilapidated industrial yard into a beautiful, biodiverse and vibrant community housing project, and give insights into a new, even bigger project at a 3.5 acre farm.   Join this tour to see the neighbourhood selected by the Academy of Urbanism's as one of the country's greatest neighbourhoods, described as 'a national and international model of good practice.'

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  • Friday 6PM - 10PM
  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

See how an old police station has been repurposed into a thriving artists' community by ArtSpace LifeSpace. Drop in and explore the artists' studios and former police cells, or join historical tours on Saturday (11am, 1pm, 3pm ) and Sunday (12.00, 2pm). Interactive family activities and art workshops all weekend.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Be arrested by this Grade II listed building, built in 1882. Hear about its various uses as a tyre warehouse, restaurant and now home to creative businesses. Take a tour with Preconstruct and architects Purcell to see how the station and its former cells have been adapted to modern office use.

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  • Friday 3PM, 4.30PM

Join architects from Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios for a tour of the recently refurbished Richmond Building, a concrete icon within Clifton Conservation Area. Find out how they have improved the building’s efficiency, sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity whilst retaining its modernist spirit.

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  • Friday 10AM - 4PM

Book on a tour of this former colour printing and paper bag factory, now redeveloped into apartments, to gain an insight into the challenges and rewards of the restoration. Keep an eye out for the stunning round atrium and the original frieze illustration of the factory’s activities.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Hear from green and ethical bankers Triodos about the careful planning and research that shaped this most sustainable of office buildings. See how work spaces have been conceived to promote a sense of community. Visit the living wall and rooftop garden, part of the #MyWildCity initiative.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Find out what makes the Floating Harbour float. Visit the Sluice Room to hear how mud once shut down the harbour, learn about docks maintenance at the machinery workshops, and see how it all worked with demonstrations of historic engineering.

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  • Friday 10AM - 4PM
  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM
  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

Visit the earthquake room in the latest extension to the University of Bristol. Learn how those working in the building are helping to build safer structures that can withstand seismic events, and build a tower to test on the earthquake table. Tours at 11am, 12.00, 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Feel the drama in this early 20th century printing house, now home to one of the world’s largest theatre archives. Learn about the history of the building and the collection, view the latest exhibition and peruse ephemera from the Bristol Old Vic Archive.

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  • Friday 10AM - 4PM
  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

Get the creative buzz at UWE Bristol's newest City Campus building. Learn how designers collaborated with UWE's animators and filmmakers to develop a building that unites new technology with traditional craft. Student-led tours every 30 mins, and Saturday talks at 11.30am and 3pm with the design team (Austin-Smith:Lord, Arup and UWE).

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  • Saturday 10AM - 4PM

See how the old and new collide, as state-of-the-art simulation labs sit alongside original Victorian architecture. Find out how the site, which is now used to teach health and social care, has evolved over the years and continues to play an important part in the Fishponds community.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 5PM
  • Sunday 12PM - 4PM

Discover the past, present and future of this church as it reaches its 150th anniversary. Hear stories from its colourful past and learn about the ongoing renovations inspired by its repositioning as a cultural hub. Architects Stride Treglown will run two tours (10.30am Sat & 12.00pm Sun) to discuss their work on the project.   With its removal of pews to create flexible space for multiple communities, this venue is an insight into the future uses of such spaces.

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  • Saturday 10AM - 12PM

Join Alec French Architects on a tour of the award-winning development at Wapping Wharf, which has transformed a once derelict place into a successful residential area and vibrant food hub. Hear about lessons learnt from phase 1 of the project and plans for phase 2.   Learn about the processes behind creating a mixed use project to revitalise an unloved area to create somewhere that positively contributes to the fabric of the city.

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  • Sunday 10AM - 4PM

See how a new citizen-led approach to development can work at TAM, an innovative low-carbon, prefabricated timber and straw home. The organisation behind the project, We Can Make, is re-imagining legal, financial and policy frameworks so that real people can become the developers of their own affordable homes.   We Can Make presents an inspiring vision at a time in which the city is in desperate need of new, low cost housing. Visit this venue for an alternative perspective what on urban house-building might look like.

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  • Friday 1PM

How should the city centre retail area respond to the challenge of increasing competition online? In this lunchtime walking tour, find out about Broadmead’s Business Improvement District (BID), its place-making management plans, achievements so far and what’s in store for the future.   Book your place for what promises to be a fascinating insight into the past, present and future of this commercial area.

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