A Grade II listed building, the Barbican is one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture.
The Barbican was developed from designs by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon as part of a utopian vision to transform an area of London left devastated by bombing during the Second World War.
'Barbican' used to be the name of a street in a bustling commercial area in the ward of Cripplegate. By the end of the 19th century it was the centre of the rag trade and was home to fabric and leather merchants, furriers, glovers and a host of other tradesmen.
However, on 29 December 1940 the City of London came under the fire of the German bombers and the area around Barbican was flattened as fire swiftly spread across the warehouses. By the end of the war, only a few buildings still stood, including the damaged Church of St Giles’ Cripplegate.
After the Second World War, the Corporation of the City of London, the governing body of the City, sought to rebuild the commercial area known as Cripplegate ward which had been almost completely razed to the ground during the Blitz. Recognising the need for comprehensive planning after the war, the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 enabled local authorities, such as the Corporation, to buy land in order to redevelop large areas.
The Centre took over a decade to build and 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. 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.
‘One of the modern wonders of the world‘
HM The Queen (1982)
First proposals submitted to the Corporation of London
Duncan Sandys, Minister for Housing, supports the scheme
Corporation of London selects a scheme devised by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon
Royal Shakespeare Company and London Symphony Orchestra become involved in the planning of the Barbican
Construction work begins
Barbican opened by HM The Queen on 3 March
John Tusa appointed Managing Director, with Graham Sheffield as Artistic Director
The Barbican celebrates its 20th birthday with a major refurbishment and improvements, offering enhanced facilities and greater ease of access
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
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.
To mark the first anniversary of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Barbican, Create London and the London Legacy Development Corporation programmed a weekend of music, food, theatre, family fun and more at Open East Festival in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Sir Simon Rattle leads a brand new youth orchestra as he conducted the 100-piece mixed-ability Young Orchestra for London in two landmark performances at the Barbican and Southbank Centre. Young Orchestra for London was a joint education project between Southbank Centre and Barbican Guildhall in collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra. It formed part of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s 2015 London Residency
Long Read: 35 Years of Firsts
We look back through 35 ‘Firsts’ from our boundary-pushing heritage over the last three and a half decades including a short essay by Cerys Matthews.