The Barbican 

 

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Architectural influences

Residential accommodation

The Barbican today


T
he Barbican Today

Having gone through a period of public disapproval, the Barbican is gaining recognition in guidebooks as a major London feature.  To the south much office redevelopment has taken place, and within a few hundred yards there are recent and exciting examples of the work of many of the most famous British architects, e.g. Norman Foster and Associates, Richard Rogers and others. 

St Paul's is flood lit at night, and to the east the upper tower flats can see the City, the sweep of the ThamThe Barbican from a tower block flates and the now abandoned Dome.  The arts facilities are exceptional.  Shopping gets better, Gap, PC World and Starbucks have moved in and we have M & S, Tesco and Waitrose. Around the financial areas one can find quality jewelers, Prada and Hermes.

For many years, the Barbican provided the majority of the residential property within the City of London. Despite the many new blocks of flats that have been built and the conversions carried out both within the City proper and on the its fringes, the Barbican still provides probably the best living environment within the ‘Square Mile'.  Prices however have risen substantially, for after 12 years with virtually stagnant values, costs have almost trebled in the last five years. The low rise blocks are studios, one or two bedroom flats.  The three towers have larger 3 or 4 bedroom flats with two bathrooms.

 

10% of the flats are still owned by the City, and are rented.  As they become vacant they are sold on the open market.  Originally the City saw the Barbican as quality public housing with a wide variety of residents and some of the early occupants are still with us.  It is impossible from the exterior to gain an adequate idea of how pleasant the living conditions are.  The population includes young families, retirees, working couples - a wider range of folks than many would suspect. The Barbican was the most ambitious attempt ever made to bring homes for people back into the heavily-developed heart of a major commercial city centre.  There are a substantial number of retired people, such who enjoy the cultural facilities and the number of friends and relatives who pass by.  At the other age extreme there are young families, where the bread-winner does not wish to travel long distances but to bring family and work into proximity.  Some flats are owned by companies for the convenience of their staff, and others are occupied by younger people working in the City.  Then there are the pieds-a-terre.  We have all types.
Shepherding Sheep, St Bartholomew's Fair

Inside, the flats, particularly when they have been converted, are great.  Increasingly there are social facilities, a Music Society, a Horticultural Society, and two Ward Clubs, Cripplegate and Aldersgate, that welcome members and have noteworthy social programmes.  We have our own Church, St. Giles' Cripplegate.  The Residents Association publishes a regular magazine covering the interests and anxieties of the residents.  The development is quieter and more secure than other comparable central London housing.  Architectural students come to wonder at this vast example of modern brutalism. 

The description of the Barbican complex on this page is based on one provided by the courtesy of Frank Harris, a local estate agent (telephone (020) 7600-7000), the Barbican Centre's own guide and material produced for an exhibition in February 2002 by Barbican Arts, for the Barbican Centre.

The Barbican's facilities have largely lived up to the early ambitions.  Access to the West End is easy, as it is to the City itself.  Here, from a Tower block window, one can see the Old Bailey, the London Eye and St Brides, and fireworks rising from the Thames..  Although the development is short of sports facilities (it has no swimming pool, for example) it certainly has world class arts facilities.  Built and sponsored by the Corporation of the City of London, there are theatres, a concert hall, cinemas, art galleries and the wonderful conservatory (usually open on Sunday afternoons).  Recently £12 million has been spent on upgrading the interior of the art centre.

Panorama and the London Eye

Revamped foyer

The Arts Centre  

The Arts Centre is one of London's premier locations, with a theatre, concert hall, a cinema and library, and there are three restaurants.  There are major conference facilities and many London universities have organised their degree ceremonies here.  The concert hall has recently been updated with better air conditioning, fine acoustics with new roof panels, and improved house lighting.    

The exhibition Curve currently has an exhibition concerning the planning and redevelopment of the Barbican

Art Centre July 2009

One of the only remaining structures after wartime bombing was St Giles' Church. Many historic figures are associated with the Church, for example Oliver Cromwell.   The Church has its own web site. 
The Rector, the Revd. Katherine Rumens, is the first female incumbent in the City of London. Katharine Rumens
Anne Marsden Thomas is the organist, running an Organ School Anne Marsden Thomas
The Church stands alone among the surrounding developments

 

St Giles, Cripplegate
The Museum of London. Devoted to London's past, from Roman times to the present day, the exhibits are always changing and the displays are fascinating.  Continued excavation in the City produces a flow of new material.  Often there are temporary exhibitions as well.  Good for children. Museum of London
Barber-Surgeon's Hall The Barbican Centre, on the north west edge of the City of London, is near to many other interesting places.  London's ancient wall, some of which can still be seen, runs through the development.  Nearby are a number of Livery Company Halls, including the Ironmongers and my own Company, the Barbers.