Posts Tagged ‘Barbican’

The Barbican

As with many great ideas, this one started in a pub. Chatting to Ivor, Kit and Oscar about architecture, we decided, along with Louisa and Joe via Twitter, that we would go on a tour of the Barbican. Having been to the Barbican arts centre many times for exhibits and films, the 90 minute tour gave an exceptional insight into the site’s history that as a visitor you cannot immediately grasp. I cannot recommend it enough – the tour guide was not only knowledgable, but passionate. He explained why the architecture style shouldn’t strictly be labelled brutalist, how the estate fosters a feeling of community – and thus exclusion for outsiders – without so much as a gate and the political tensions and context surrounding the 40 year project. I came away feeling both enriched and hungry to know more.

Here’s a sample of fun facts I learnt today:

The Barbican gets it name from the Latin barbecana, meaning fortified outpost, castle. This reflects its history as a site of great conflict and violence from Roman times onwards.

The site is now Grade II listed due to the coherence of the design which is dominated by semi circles and castle motifs, such as turrets and arrow slits.

While it’s well respected nowadays, the arts centre was in fact an afterthought in the design process. It opened in 1982.

The architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon took planning officials on a tour of Europe to showcase their influences and stopped off at such cities as Berlin and Stockholm, but also, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Venice. Something of the Italian Renaissance piazza culture can be felt in Ben Jonson Place and the front of the arts centre.

Originally the architects wanted to build a moat around the whole estate.

The conservatory is only open on Sundays and bank holidays, while the water fountains are turned off at 7pm every day so as to give residents a bit of peace and quiet.

You too can book an architecture tour of the Barbican here – I do recommend going when the sun is shining. It was a glorious day out.

Last Chance to see – Future Beauty

Today I popped down to the Barbican to (finally) see the Future Beauty: 30 years of Japanese Fashion exhibition.

I’ve been meaning to go for a while, as has Tilly who came with me this afternoon, and we’re both pleased we managed to see it before it closes next weekend.

I’m ashamed to say I don’t (or didn’t) actually know that much about the much feted Yohji Yamamoto or the Comme des Garcons designers Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe so this exhibition was a great introduction into their backgrounds and influence in the Western fashion world.  Kate Bush, Head of Art Galleries at Barbican says:

“The great Japanese designers – Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto – changed fashion forever in the 1980s.  The tight silhouettes of Western couture were jettisoned for new fluid shapes.  Out went the magnificent ornament and extravagent techniques of the post-war tradition and in came a stark, monochrome palette and an entirely new decorative language – holes, rips, frays and tears – emerging from the stuff of fabric itself.”

We loved the extravagant perforated, draped and contoured designs.  (This bad boy above is actually my ideal vision of my wedding dress. Oh yes.)

Plus, the film on the ground floor by Wim Wenders gave an interesting insight into the workings of Yohji Yamamoto’s studio and catwalk successes.

Other designers on show included Jun Takahashi, Tao Kurihara, Matohu and Mintdesigns.

There’s a week left (until 6th Feb). Get yourself down there pronto.

Images courtesy of Lyndon Douglas.