Urban Utopia or Brutalist Hell?   21 comments

The UK’s Leading International Arts Centre

The Barbican – Urban Utopia or Brutalist Hell? – Love it or Hate it!

“The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete housing complex of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. The lakeside terrace and adjoining café are good spots to take a rest from visiting the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library within the complex. The art gallery on the third floor stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art.” – (timeout.com)

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The Barbican Centre was designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon with the aim of transforming the devastated WW2 bombing location where it is situated into an urban utopia. Built amongst the long-previously designed system of striking brutalist buildings, the Barbican’s brutalist exterior is created with “enough concrete to make 19 miles of six-lane motorway: 130,000 cubic metres which was textured by hand with electric drills. Presumably because the architects hated the neighbours.” Winking smile (timeout.com)

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Considered one of the most important 20th century architectural accomplishments it was opened in 1982 by The Queen who referred to it as ‘one of the modern wonders of the world.’

In September 2001, the Barbican Centre complex was designated a site of special architectural interest and given Grade II listed building status. In September 2003 an opinion poll voted it “London’s ugliest building” for its Brutalist styling.

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The Barbican is not only one of London’s greatest illustrations of Brutalist architecture but also Europe’s largest multi-purpose performing arts and conference venue. From when it first opened it has housed the London Symphony Orchestra and in 2013 became the Royal Shakespeare Company’s London base.

NB: To access the Barbican Centre required a long walk through the Barbican Housing Complex to reach it. It was also a freezing cold day and Icewolf’s paws were rapidly developing frostbite of the photo-snapping claw Freezing


20160316_123408 (2)Therefore any photos of the inside of the Barbican Arts Centre (where permitted, obviously…after all anyone who knows Icewolf knows Icewolf never ventures anywhere Icewolf is not supposed to venture….Angel) will not be available until a second visit can happen, hopefully when it is considerably warmer! However since the main purpose of this first visit was to see the ‘brutalist architecture’ for myself, I believe the mission was accomplished SmileThumbs up

(Click photos to enlarge – All photos: Copyright Europa’s Icewolf 2016)




21 responses to “Urban Utopia or Brutalist Hell?

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  1. Wolfie,

    If you will pardon my lapsing into French, I have to say, that’s one fucking ugly building, and complex. I kept expecting to see ONE photo that resembled something having to do with Art, or entertainment of any kind, and the venue just doesn’t have it. All I can say is, what the fuck were they thinking?

    Sorry, I tend to lapse into my native language when disturbed, as any curmudgeon would do….

    Great post, though; sorry it was so hard on the pads.




    • ROTFL!!! Oh dear! Love that comment Dubious one!! lol 🙂 I think lol that it’s safe to say you hated this architecture and weren’t at all impressed with my urban utopia!! I had a feeling it might cause that sort of reaction…can’t begin to imagine why! lol 😉 It reminded me of walking through Pripyat (Chernobyl) especially given it was so quiet and no-one to be seen despite being central London. The last few photos (not the final two) show the actual Barbican Arts Centre but by that time I could hardly feel my paws much less consider taking further pics of the arty probably more appealing interior lol None-the-less it was a very interesting, not to mention freezing cold and icy experience from the photography viewpoint. Next time I’ll take the proper camera rather than relying on the mobile cameral 🙂 In the meantime so glad you liked it!!! 😉 lol lol 😉

      Big Wolfie hugs!

      • Glad to be of service; I always enjoy making someone laugh… and, besides, it IS really ugly, right? Why mince words? It reminded me of Chernoby, for sure…

        Have a good bank holiday, whatever that is….


      • I would not like you to mince your words lol I would like you to be brutally honest at all times! It is ugly architecture but it also holds an odd appeal. Maybe because it’s my first experience of it here in UK or maybe I’m just a little odd in my tastes!
        Bank holidays…yes…think we have one or possibly two coming up…don’t know when exactly! 🙂

  2. I hope your paws have recovered! I saved some liver cake for you – that may help.

    I think it’s harsh to call it the ugliest building in London… but I’d put it in a list of the top 10 ugliest buildings in the world!

    • Oh death!! That was very harsh! lol 😀 It was my first visit there and I must admit to being somewhat taken aback by the…brutality 😉 that confronted me. Not seen anything quite like it before and the absolute silence and lack of any sign of human life there was very eerie.
      My paws have recovered well enough to grab at that liver cake with a vengeance! Not sure they’re ready for another photo shoot at the Barbican just yet though!

  3. I consider Brutalist architecture an eyesore especially when erected next to classical and neoclassical mansions.Your photo-series confirms my viewpoint.Most interesting post,dear Wolfie.Nevertheless,all the performances and the art exhibitions that take place there,are remarkable and so are some Roman ruins from the Wall and a Medieval tower that can been seen from the centre.Have a sunny warm day,dear friend 🙂

  4. Liebe Grüße und eine gute Woche für dich eine Umarmung Gislinde

  5. Thanks for trekking all the way along to get the photos you did get, Icewolf. The Barbican – such a grand name for what looks like a concrete eyesore! And it’s quite modern! Mind you, some of our more modern buildings today will probably have the same impact in thirty or so years. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder with some buildings! (Sorry, my Like buttons aren’t working today for some reason, but I do like this post even if this comment tends to steer me off in other directions!) Good to see you posting again.

    • It was recommended viewing by a guy at a photographic society I paid a visit to. He had a keen interest in urban photography including brutalist architecture.
      I think your like button is just being brutally lol honest! It hates those buildings just as much as everybody else and is saving you any embarrassment by refusing to work! lol 😀

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