EDitorial ± 11-Sep-2012

What You Talkin' About, Willis?

Second weekend in September means Heritage Open Days, that one chance in the year to visit somewhere usually out-of-bounds and with free admission. Our local one is pulled together by the Ipswich Society, bless 'em, who this year arranged for over 30 destinations to open their doors. Loads of churches, obviously, Broomhill Pool up the road, Freston Tower out in, er, Freston, and many more.

Perhaps the jewel in the crown, though, is the Willis Building (very good aerial view here). Grade I listed and plated in bronzed glass, it's no wonder that it recently caught the attention of Oscar Niemeyer. Those of us who've been around a while may still refer to it as Willis Faber. Those same folk have no excuse for never having been inside: that was me until Saturday.

Considering that we walked into town, me and the kiddies did well to beat the 2pm closing time by a good 10 minutes. Welcomed inside to the atrium, and one, two, three escalators later, we were at the coffee bar -- serving Starbucks, note -- then out the door and onto the grass. That's right, the spacious flat roof is luxuriantly turfed. Rather nice up here in the sun.

Right smack dab in the middle of town
I've found a paradise that's trouble-proof
Up on the roof
— The Drifters, Up On The Roof

Better still, there's a walkway around the perimeter with fine views of St Nicholas church, the (also Grade I listed) Unitarian Meeting House next door, and the water-filled roundabout at the bottom of 60s tinged Civic Drive. Feels like a different country up here. As the official English Heritage listing text notes, this is "an exceptional building". Must arrive lunchtime-ish next year and remember to pack a picnic.