Absolutely loved this case study of finding out more information about the Barbican Estate development in the city of London. I had heard of the Barbican but always thought it was famous only for an Art’s centre.
A raw concrete brutalist design by british designers, Chamberlain, Powell & Bon in the 1950’s. They had previously won the 1951 design competition to build the Golden Lane Estate, where they built 940 flats whilst managing to avoid making the site feel congested. The generous and innovative design included the 16-storey Great Arthur House which was the tallest block in London when it was built.
The Barbican designs were finalised in 1959, it was constructed during the 1960’s and 1970’s and officially opened by the Queen in 1982. Built on 140,000m2 of land that was bombed during the second world war, the estate was built to house 4000 people in 2014 flats. This was made up of 6 story high blocks, 3 high rise and several rows of mews houses. It was created with a car free area made up of raised walkways for pedestrians. The estate also included an Art Centre, Museum, a school, a Church, gardens, lakes and wildlife.
The development was originally built by the City of London as flats to rent to people working in the City. That soon shifted once Margaret Thatcher announced that council tenants could have the ‘right to buy’ their flats, the city was a Council which made the Barbican residents tenants and it was then realised that they could buy their flats at a big discount.
The Barbican Centre was revisited ahead of its 25th anniversary by British architecture firm Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, with a scheme that rationalised what many felt to be the estate’s only failing – orientation. The £12.6 million project involved introducing new signage elements that would help to guide visitors around the huge site, adding a more legible public realm at the entrance to the arts centre, and improving acoustics. (Frearson, 2014)
The Minister for the Arts, Tessa Blackstone, announced in September 2001 that the Barbican complex was to be Grade II listed. It has been designated a site of special architectural interest for its scale, its cohesion and the ambition of the project. The complex is architecturally important as it is one of London’s principal examples of concrete Brutalist architecture and considered a landmark. (Barbican Life, s.d.)
Whilst researching the internet for information I came across a website of a photographer called Anton Rodriguez who has documented several residents and their homes on the Barbican Estate. (Rodriguez, s.d.)
With each space as unique as the individual within it, Anton’s project satisfies both a longing to know more about his neighbours and a desire to capture the essence of the Brutalist Barbican architecture. With this project Anton allows the public to get a rare glimpse of what goes on within the Barbican Estate, as you don’t often get to see it from the inside.
What also fascinated me whilst carrying out research was that the St. Giles church remained standing after the bombing and is one of the few remaining medieval churches in the city of London, it sits at the heart of the Barbican development, medieval architecture alongside brutalist architecture. It wasn’t totally undamaged during the war, the interior was gutted but the walls and tower managed to hold together long enough for restoration to take place in 1966.
Today the interior looks very much like a traditional old church, but is entirely modern construction in a traditional style.
(Barbican Life, s.d.) http://www.barbicanlifeonline.com/
(Diocese of London, s.d.) https://www.stgilesnewsite.co.uk/history/
(Rodriguez, s.d.) https://antonrodriguez.co.uk/barbicanresidents
Fig. 1 The Golden Lane Estate, London https://www.academyofurbanism.org.uk/golden-lane-estate-london/ (accessed 16.11.20)
Fig. 2 The Barbican Estate in London https://www.dezeen.com/2014/09/13/brutalist-buildings-barbican-estate-chamberlin-powell-bon/ (accessed 16.11.20)
Fig. 3 Bomb-devastated Barbican site before construction https://www.dezeen.com/2014/09/13/brutalist-buildings-barbican-estate-chamberlin-powell-bon/ (accessed 16.11.20)
Fig. 4 Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s proposal, 1956 https://www.dezeen.com/2014/09/13/brutalist-buildings-barbican-estate-chamberlin-powell-bon/ (accessed 16.11.20)
Fig. 5 The Barbican Centre, London https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2012/mar/07/30-years-barbican (accessed 16.11.20)
Fig. 6 St. Giles church stands next to the Barbican Estate https://www.stgilesnewsite.co.uk/history/ (accessed 17.11.20)
Fig. 7 Interior of St.Giles church next to the Barbican Estate in London https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/st-giles-cripplegate-barbican-01.jpg (accessed 17.11.20)