inventive vents

We are delighted to have received an award of £74,800 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for an exciting pan London project, Inventive Vents. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project will 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 which have an often unexplained street presence.


Ventilation shafts appear all over the city, often disguised as buildings, or other forms of architecture. Many have been designed by eminent architects or artists such as Thomas Heatherwicks cooling vents for an electricity substation in Paternoster Square and Eduardo Paolozzis cast metal sculpture for a ventilation cover in Pimlico. Others, by less known or anonymous designers nonetheless have an impact and deserve to be celebrated and recorded, for example, the Tudor-style hut in Soho Square and the Submarinein Camberwell. There is huge diversity in the materials and design of ventilation shafts; from utilitarian cast iron Victorian stink pipes in a variety of heights to the vast new blue glass shaft in Blackfriars station, which, taken altogether will make such a focus on a building type a unique and fascinating one.


We are looking for volunteer researchers to photograph, record, map and research vents across London and then add them to an established online map Layers of Londonwith the help of the project team. Please get in touch by emailing if you would like to be involved and we will send you further details of the different volunteer roles available. 

Public events will be held for adults and families including bus, tube and walking tours and community workshops to explore the ventilation shafts and learn about underground London. Schools projects will provide an innovative and creative way to educate children about the heritage of Londons hidden infrastructure that enables the city to function and will result in the production of teaching resources. Finally a public exhibition and publication are planned on the heritage of ventilation shafts, current developments and aspects of subterranean London.