The two-year project, which began in 2019, was designed to help the public, including school children to engage with and consider secret and invisible workings of the city – transport, services and sewerage below ground through ventilation shafts.
It was the realization that Paolozzi’s robotic metal sculpture in Pimlico was actually a ventilation shaft that started Our Hut’s fascination with the subject. This led to the Our Hut generated project Inventive Vents, to map, record and celebrate London’s ventilation shafts. The project was generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with an award of £74,800.
The two-year project, which began in 2019, was designed to help the public, including school children to engage with and consider secret and invisible workings of the city – transport, services and sewerage below ground through ventilation shafts. Little did we know when we applied for funding just how prominent ventilation was going to become in fighting the Covid pandemic. The appeal of suddenly noticing an overlooked architectural typology and thereby seeing the urban fabric in a completely new light has been key to the enthusiasm for the project, which endured even during lockdown with volunteers continuing to explore London and contribute to the Layers of London online map.
The project included school workshops which focused on different aspects of underground London, sewerage and transport both being extremely motivating topics and a focus on archaeology was led by MOLA. Teaching resources are available for free under the resources section of MOLA’s website. We also held public events such as walking tours, a tour of the Jubilee Line, an exhibition at the Building Centre and finally a book – Inventive Vents: A Gazetteer of London’s Ventilation Shafts. The book, available to buy here, was written and published by Our Hut and has a foreword by Oliver Wainwright, who kindly agreed to contribute because he was so enthused by the subject.
School trips were out of the question at the time we were working at Graveney secondary school so we commissioned a film by Foreign Body films which explores a number of key London ventilation shafts which you can see here.
This book is the culmination of the Inventive Vents project, led by Our Hut and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which celebrates these shafts and investigates the subterranean world to which they provide clues. Discover them for yourself with this illuminating gazetteer.£12.50