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  • Writer's pictureAlex Lacey

Barbican - a Brutalist beauty

Barbican brutalist architecture

One of the biggest things to have influenced London's architecture is World War 2. Many

areas were heavily bombed, and needed to be completely rebuilt.

Into these spaces, novel new residential areas were created, one of these being the Barbican estate.

'Barbican' used to be the name of a street which was home to the rag trade, fur trade and myriad other tradesmen. When the bombing started in 1940, it devastated the area.

Into this bombed out space, architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon arrived to take over the redevelopment of the area. This utopian vision for a residential estate took over 10 years to build, and was finally opened in 1982.

Barbican brutalist architecture

Built in the classic Brutalist style which has its roots in the 1950s. It was a philosophical approach to architecture, aiming to provide simple, functional buildings which could accommodate plenty of inhabitants in an unfussy, practical way.

Barbican brutalist architecture

Barbican Brutalist architecture

Brutalism has proved to be very divisive - some people love the stark lines and moody functionality, others find it oppressive or ugly. I personally enjoy the lines and simplicity for photography, and having visited a couple of the flats located in the estate, they provide comfortable, spacious accommodation, and care has been taken to make sure the estate is quiet and pleasant for the people who live there, with private gardens and fountains to counteract noise from the many visitors who come to the theatre within the complex.

But it's not all grey and concrete. There are many gardens, ponds, a weir, and lots of fish, birds and ducks.

When I went shooting here, I leaned in to the brutalism, and went with a black and white approach on what was a bit of a grey day, but on a sunny day, it is bright and open and I may well have gone with a light and shadow approach. Below is a picture of just how seriously I take my photography!

Credit - Lee Ingleby

There are architecture tours available of the Barbican here (although they do book out fast), and you can visit the glorious conservatory for free. You can book a time slot by clicking here.

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