Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Tuesday, May 8


Opening in 1982, the Barbican is situated in a part of east London that was badly bombed during WWII.  The arts centre is surrounded by The Barbican Estate, a housing complex, leaving only one direct access point to the street.  I realized this after exploring outside the Barbican and very quickly getting lost in the labyrinth of the tall, multi-level concrete structure.  Designed in the Brutalist style,  it feels totally misplaced in London but is a completely familiar aesthetic to me.  With the exception of the palm trees, it reminds me of what you see, a lot, in Toronto built during the 1970s.  Our own Robarts Library is in this same style.  It's of a very particular taste, and remains a controversial building.  

Unlike many Toronto buildings built in the Brutalist style, the Barbican underwent a serious design overhaul, in 2005-2006, bringing it into the contemporary while still keeping the integrity of the 70s architecture.  This rehabilitation meant removing most embellishments made in the 90s, new signage and improved circulation. 

A day of ziggurats, I walked not a short distance from one to the next.  I ran into the British Library at St Pancras to catch a break from the cold and the rain on my way elsewhere.  I was wondering why that day had such a distinct vibe.

1 comment:

  1. There's something about the Barbican that makes me think of the Reference Library in Toronto... one of my favourite places in the city. Have you ever been to the State Library (Stattsbibliothek) on Potsdamerstr. in Berlin? It's breathtaking.