The Barbican Estate

In the aftermath of the Blitz the City of London had suffered serious war damage and loss of life. Some entire wards of the City had virtually been reduced to wreckage, Cripplegate in particular had suffered heavy destruction. By 1951 only 48 residents still lived in the ward, out of a total population of 5,324 living in the Square Mile. It took until 1957 for a decision to be made about how the virtually desolate city-scape could be regenerated, the Barbican Estate was the answer.

From the rubble the Brutalist blocks of the uncompromising Barbican rose to unprecedented heights on the northern edge of the City of London. Commissioned to help alleviate the housing crisis in London  2,014 flats were designed by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. The 40 acre site also contains the Barbican Centre (an arts venue), the Barbican public library, the City of London School for Girls, the Museum of London, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and a YMCA building, constructed between 1965 and 1971. The mix of these programmes demonstrated a vision of a new culture of living in the City, a vision of a new community with a public centre, and a vision of a unique stamp of architectural identity.

The Estate is on of the most telling and prominent examples of Brutalist Architecture in Britain and now holds a Grade II listed status. The concrete forms of the striking tower blocks and the gigantic raised rectilinear masses are often juxtaposed throughout the scheme by the everyday scale of human life. Massive concrete pillars hold walkways over flower boxes, washing lines and playground equipment.

This setting enables the area to have a sense of awe and impact of the city scale, but cross references this unashamedly with the most residential of adornment, it achieves a sense of place and humanity working on a local man-sized scale.

Here are some photos I took from in and around the Barbican Estate in the City of London.


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