Hundreds of Londoners and visitors from further afield visited The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters (IHQ) in London as part of Open House London 2018. The world’s largest architectural festival began in 1992 and now sees more than 800 buildings, talks and walks open to the public across the capital. This is the ninth year The Salvation Army has opened up its City of London location, which is the hub for coordinating work in 131 countries worldwide.
Occupying a plot at an important crossroads in London, IHQ is intentionally designed with principles of transparency evident throughout its architecture. The glass-enclosed office which is home to Salvation Army world leader General Brian Peddle overlooks the thousands of people who daily walk past on the busy route between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, an important crossing point over the River Thames. While the building has a popular café and exhibition space which is open to the public, tours of the rest of the premises are rare.
More than 300 people – some travelling to IHQ from as far away as Asia and Scandinavia – enjoyed free tours of the building. Nineteen volunteers offered their time to tell the story of this location, the architectural features and the structure itself and snapshots of The Salvation Army’s mission. ‘It is more than an architectural tour or a chance to peek inside a building that you may walk past regularly, it is an opportunity to share our mission,’ explains Commissioner Dawn Heatwole, IHQ Community Chaplain.
Guests were drawn to a new display created by IHQ Editorial team members Kevin Sims and Berni Georges. The exhibition charts the history of the building and the Queen Victoria Street site which has been occupied by the Army since 1881. The internationalism of The Salvation Army was presented during the tour by including the floor housing five zonal offices and with pictures and stories depicting our global ministry throughout the building.
Maidenhead Corps Band shared their musical ministry with passers-by, some of whom who were then drawn in to tour the building. One volunteer guide, Major Margaret Stredwick, spoke of an encounter with a visitor who she’d observed taking photos of the outside of the building. On entering, the young man joined a tour group and was chatting with the major while waiting for a lift. In the conversation that followed, it emerged that the man’s name was Herald, named after the Heralds of Hope intake of Salvation Army cadets (officer-trainees) some years ago. This was the same session that Major Stredwick had trained in herself – with the young man’s father. ‘Of all the guides Herald could have met up with today, he met me!’ retells the Major, describing the event as a ‘God moment’.
Other activities included face painting for the children and a full menu of food provided in Café 101. Author Major Beverley Ivany was available to speak with guests and to sign copies of the latest edition of the Words of Life daily devotional book.
The building’s testimony to The Salvation Army’s role as a Christian church was also appreciated by a visitor from the west of England, who observed: ‘The thing that stood out the most for me was the writing on the windows. In all the writing – the Bible verses and words about God – the [letter] ts … look just like a Cross. When you see one Cross in the word, you start noticing them all around the building. It’s really good!’