'Once the Centre was completed, the City of London could indeed be proud of its achievement, described at the time as the 'City’s gift to the nation'.' Henry Wrong CBE


A Grade II listed building, the Barbican Centre is the largest performing arts venue in Europe and one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture.

The idea to build the Barbican Centre began in the 1960s as part of a utopian vision to transform an area of London left devastated by bombing during the Second World War. After years of deliberation and debate, construction of the centre finally began in 1971 based on plans drawn up by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. The centre took over a decade to build, with the final cost totaling £156 million (it would cost an astonishing £500 million to build today).

The Barbican Centre was opened by The Queen in 1982, who declared it ‘one of the modern wonders of the world’ with the building seen as a landmark in terms of its scale, cohesion and ambition. As it enters its fourth decade, the centre continues to push boundaries across the arts, offering music, theatre, dance, film, art and design. Its stunning spaces and unique location at the heart of the Barbican Estate have made it an internationally recognised venue, set within an urban landscape acknowledged as one of the most significant architectural achievements of the 20th century.

Find out more about the history and architecture of the Barbican estate on one of our Architecture tours

Go behind the scenes at the Barbican on one of our Hidden Barbican tours









1955
First proposals submitted to the Corporation of London

1956
Duncan Sandys, Minister for Housing, supports the scheme

1959
Corporation of London selects a scheme devised by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon

1960
Royal Shakespeare Company and London Symphony Orchestra become involved in the planning of the Barbican

1971
Construction work begins

1982
Barbican opened by HM The Queen on 3 March

1995
John Tusa appointed Managing Director, with Graham Sheffield as Artistic Director

2002
The Barbican celebrates its 20th birthday with a major refurbishment and improvements, offering enhanced facilities and greater ease of access

2007
The Barbican celebrates its 25th birthday with a marathon fortnight of events and a new look following the major £35 million refurbishment of the foyers, public spaces and all the venues.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon appointed Managing Director

2012
Barbican celebrates 30th birthday and plays major role in Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival with a groundbreaking programme featuring Tanztheater Wuppertal (Pina Bausch), Cate Blanchett and Wynton Marsalis.