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.
Posted: March 25th, 2012
, Ben Jonson
, Chamberlin Powell and Bon
, Kit Neale
, menswear designers
, Oscar Quiroz
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