The Barbican is one of those buildings / complexes / estates even, that divide people into the LOVE IT / HATE IT camps. It’s not for everyone that’s for sure, but it certainly is for those of us (yes, I’m in the LOVE IT camp) who like strong, well thought out architecture that fits into its landscape. The attention to detail and finish here is impeccable and since it was finally completed in the 70’s, it has impressively withstood the test of time and evolving aesthetics.
The original site had been heavily bombed during the Second World War, requiring the whole area to be demolished. Thankfully, someone with rare vision engaged a number of eminent architects who were tasked with designing and building an entire city plot from scratch. The vision was for a raised concrete podium, a car-free city within a city, brick pathways with a tiled yellow line indicating different routes. Beautifully landscaped gardens, lakes, fountains and cascading waterfalls – and most pleasing of all, living hanging gardens from the tiered concrete balconies, spilling over and down from on high.
There are three 42-story residential towers called Shakespeare, Cromwell and Lauderdale (?), thirteen 7-storey blocks and some two-storey townhouses with their own private gardens. Not surprisingly, these apartments and townhouses go for a motza, and when they do – rarely – come up for sale, are usually snapped up by an architect or design fiend.
“The sheer number of ramps, stairs, handrails and balconies here, plus the overtly nautical detailing, makes the Barbican feel, particularly on rain-soaked, windswept days, like some great concrete ship that has come to berth in the city of London.”
– Jonathan Glancy, former Guardian critic and resident