Thursday, 26 November 2009

Sweet dreams or a beautiful nightmare?

The Barbican is my idea of what living is all about. It fulfills every notion of what I think a home should be. It is a complex with history, density, supreme architectural design, dead central location and most importantly skyline dominance.

Looking at the building today its brutalist domineering style seems somewhat aged but not out of place in London's skyline. The three towers sit comfortably at the beginning of the river skyline, followed by St Pauls, the Natwest Tower and the Gherkin. The steep concrete faces create an imposing glare over the square mile and are reminiscent of the mass produced social housing structures typical of the artichectural modernism 60s and 70s. The Brutalist style of the barbican was a response to this, a movement away from internationally styled housing to that of a more monumental emphasis, a literal domination of the skyline. It is this domination of
London's skyline that earned the complex its Grade II listed status in 2001.

Historically the real inspiration behind the barbican lies solely with one man, Le Corbusier. The Frenchman rejected all forms of ancient architecture, deciding the modern man needed his own form of artichecture to represent his place in the modern world. In 1922 he envisaged a group of buildings of magnificent proportions, Ville Contemporaine, numerous sixty-floor structures linked by circular walkways, included within and around the structures would be airports, office bulidings, shops and any other amenity you can imagine. Man would quite simply give himself over to the dominance of the architecture, three million of those men. Le Corbusier's plan was to build standardised, mass-produced structures that would end urban deprivation in Paris, his vision would become an international standard by the mid 1960s.

Conceived in 1953 and completed in 1969 the Barbican has at its heart the idea of a completely contained living experience. In 1959 artichetcts Chamberlin, Powell & Bon mapped out their vision for the Barbican "The intention underlying our design is to create a coherent residential precinct in which people can live both conveniently and with pleasure. Despite its high density the layout is spacious: the buildings and the space between them are composed in such a way as to create a clear sense of order without monotony. Uninterrupted by road traffic (which is kept separate from pedestrian circulation through and about the neighbourhood) a quiet precinct will be created in which people will be able to move about freely enjoying constantly changing perspectives or terraces, lawns, trees and flowers seen against the background or the new buildings or reflected in the ornamental lake." The notion of meeting tranquil beauty within this dominating structure seems to represent a marriage of the modern with traditional Britain, and until this day the lawns of the complex are amongst its most favoured aspect with residents.

One of the most depressing aspects of the complex has become part of its zeal, the failure of the shopping complex paved the way for the arts centre, and the arts centre is now one of the defining features of the Barbican. Additionally, in 1984 the conservatory was opened and this was an absolute feat containing exotic flora, tropical and domestic plants, pools and fountains, an aivairy and the largest cacti in Europe. The pools used to house terrapins and fish and amazingly the pest control is not chemical but a delicate balance of predators and pathogens (that's basically biological germs).

All in all the Barbican is an incredible project that continues to live on forty years after its unveiling and over half a century after its inception, that it is one of the only complexes of its kind is a tragedy but I am lead to believe that the Pan Peninsula in the Docklands is somewhat similar with its self contained amenities and now stands as the tallest residential building in London. I would do anything to be a part of the Barbican and its beautiful and unmatched existence, my one and only true aim in life is to wake up each morning and view my amazing city from its dizzying heights.



  1. Themes of Deterioration? It's better. But you're wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong, wrongedy-wrong-wrong ba-da-da-da-da wroooooooooooong.... about the Barbican. It's shit and I hate it.

    And you do need to proof-read these posts, grammar and punctuation are a bit hit and miss. Love you bebe. xx

  2. the barbican is amazing! go to hell with your thatched roofs x