“The Barbican, an iconic brutal complex(ity).”
Appearing as a mainly pedestrian concrete fortress in the City of London, the Barbican estate’s uniqueness lies into complex design qualities. In this ambitious and large-scale project, every detail has been considered.
Designed in 1950 by British firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the Barbican development scheme was built on a site entirely destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War to give home to over 4,000 people. With ad hoc technical and service elements and multiple public and private spaces and activities, the project consists of a multi-level arrangement of buildings connected by paths, bridges, gardens, and lakes. A sense of continuity with site's history has been guaranteed by maintaining Georgian and Victorian ruins and St Giles-without-Cripplegate Church and by designing different access points and walkways related to existing roads.
With its 3 tower blocks, 13 terrace blocks, 2 “mews”, a row of townhouses, two schools and an arts centre, this unique urban experiment is not only an iconic exemplar of Brutalism style but also an attempt to create an utopian complex where a better way of life was provided to Londoners. Private and public spheres perfectly merge generating a sense of protection and pleasant isolation from the chaos of a big city.
Inspired among others by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in many elements, such as the commitment to space and light, the Barbican estate differs from the “vertical garden city” in proposing a horizontal development of buildings and its several functions embracing an area of approximately 190,000 m³.
Today The Barbican is one of the most inclusive and vibrant centers in London, with activities and spaces enjoyable for everyone. An entirely pedestrian oasis in the City where natural elements and people are the real gems in a perfectly designed beton brut complex.
Text by Giorgia Scognamiglio
(From "HIDE MAGAZINE Issue 1 – 2018")