Open House Festival

Senate House

education, community/cultural, library, online

Charles Holden, 1933

University of London, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU

London’s tallest secular building when it opened as the HQ of the University of London and home to the Ministry of Information during WWII, this Grade II* listed landmark features Classicism and Art Deco elements.

Getting there


Russell Square, Goodge Street, Euston Square, Tottenham Court Road




7, 10, 24, 29, 68, 73, 134, 188




Architectural gem, literary landmark, urban myth

Designed by British architect Charles Holden, who is also credited with the design of many of London’s Underground stations, Senate House was created to house what became the world’s largest purpose-built University.

The landmark Art Deco building, which is one of the few buildings in London to boast original 1930s features, was the University’s first permanent home after a century of being housed in a series of temporary premises. King George V laid the foundation stone on 26 June 1933 and the building welcomed its first occupants in 1936.

Senate House, consisting of 19 floors and standing 210 feet (64m) high, was the tallest secular building in Britain on completion. It was constructed of the finest materials then available, including Portland stone, Travertine marble, English walnut and South American cypress. Acknowledged as a building of great architectural significance, it was listed as Grade II* in 1969.

During the Second World War, Senate House was home to the Ministry of Information and inspired George Orwell’s description of the Ministry of Truth in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Besides being an architectural gem and a literary landmark, Senate House is also subject to urban mystification – allegedly Hitler planned to install the headquarters of Nazi dominion in Britain in the building on Malet Street.

Senate House Library

Senate House is also the home to the world-famous Senate House Library which holds one of the UK’s largest collections in arts, humanities & social sciences, with over 2 million books, 50 special collections & 1,200 archives. Senate House Library celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021-22 with an online exhibition where you can explore some of its extraordinary treasures.

From late June 2022 until March 2023, Senate House Library, in partnership with Artangel, will be part of the World Weather Network, a constellation of weather stations imagined and operated by some 30 arts agencies from around the world. It forms a new artist-led global coalition in response to the climate emergency and biodiversity loss, presented through a website featuring the range of newly commissioned art works. While in Senate House Library, you can visit A Thousand Words for Weather, the sound installation specially commissioned for the project.

Online presence


Back to top of page