The Barbican

The Barbican development is the result of the complete remodelling of an area of warehousing, on the northwestern fringe of the City, that was largely destroyed by bombing during the second world war. I have no first-hand information to hand about the development, its conception or its realisation, but my understanding is that it was begun in the 1960's and completed in the early 1980's.

The Barbican has an arts multiplex at its centre, comprising a theatre, concert hall, cinema, gallery, library, and a number of restaurants and cafes, built in a half-moon shape and topped by a massive semitropical conservatory. A large piazza with water features lies adjacent, and is in turn surrounded by apartment blocks in an imposing, rather Eastern European style. The apartments have private garden areas. The development encopmpasses the Guildhall School of Music and the Guildhall School for Girls, and also has the splendid Museum of London on its southwestern corner. In the midst stands the ancient church of St Giles Cripplegate, the only building untouched by the development. Three skyscraper apartment blocks, triangular in profile, sit to the northern edge of the development and are among the highest buildings in London.

During 1972-3 I had a room on the 15th floor of the City University's Northampton Hall on Chiswell St, a block to the north. Through that year I was able to overlook what was then just a massive hole in the ground. It has been fascinating to see this unlovely construction site blossom into what is now one of the City's most striking precincts. You may not favour the "distressed concrete" design concept, and you may also find its maze of walkways and stairwells bewildering. You may even raise an eyebrow or two at the prices in its restaurants. But you can't fail to admit that the Barbican is a bold, imaginative and fascinating place.

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A Barbican Centre photo album

The official Barbican Centre website
The Barbican - a personal website by Geoffrey Rivett, local resident
Map of the Barbican area (and aerial photo) by

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This page last updated 22nd October 2002