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Open House San Diego invites you to explore the city, building by building

Open House San Diego invites you to explore the city, building by building
The Hotel Churchill was built in 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition. Free guided tours are available Saturday as part of Open House San Diego. (Stephen Whalen)

A quarter century ago Victoria Thornton founded Open House London based on one salient thought: Invite the public to see and experience the architecture all around them, and they'll advocate for better design of their city.

The idea took off, and San Diego signed on as an Open House city. Locals and tourists on Saturday and Sunday will be able to tour 47 of the city's architecturally interesting buildings at no cost — from historic hotels and well-known landmarks to newly built schools and architectural firms.

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Neighborhoods covered this year include buildings in downtown, Bankers Hill and Barrio Logan.

The elaborate ceiling of the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown.
The elaborate ceiling of the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown. (Harrison Photographic)

Hotels on the tour include two ornate beauties: the US Grant (326 Broadway), built in 1910, which recently underwent a renovation; and Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown (530 Broadway), the former San Diego Trust and Savings Bank, built in 1928.

And you can step behind the scenes at the San Diego Opera Scenic Studio at 3064 Commercial St. where visitors can learn about where opera sets are built, and the Villa Montezuma Museum, a landmark Queen Anne Victorian built in 1887.

The National has an awning made of water bottles and shipping containers used as meeting rooms.
The National has an awning made of water bottles and shipping containers used as meeting rooms. (Courtesy of LWP Group)

Fast forward to contemporary design like Central Library San Diego (330 Park Blvd.), with its landmark steel-latticed dome; and the National (2632 National Ave.), the office of developer LWP Group, which features shipping containers-turned-meeting rooms and other innovative materials.

Urban Discovery Academy, a charter school built in 2015, offers guided tours every half hour on Saturday.
Urban Discovery Academy, a charter school built in 2015, offers guided tours every half hour on Saturday. (Urban Discovery Academy)

Visitors can show up for most tours; some are guided, others self-guided. Some tours (such as Villa Montezuma) require advance registration for free tours.

Check out all the Open House sites to plan your trip at the San Diego Architectural Foundation's website.

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