The Barbican is the largest modernist structure in London. It is an array of many buildings, but it looks like one solid building. It has 13 plate houses and three 42-storey towers, as well as a cultural center, a music school, a girls' school and a huge greenhouse. At a height of two or three floors, all these buildings are connected by platforms, ramps, and bridges. Downstairs, in the podium, there are parking lots, office premises, in one place - even a section of the street hidden in a tunnel. On the terraces there are gardens with palm trees, a pond, an artificial waterfall. On the main square there is an old church and carefully cleared remains of the ancient Roman wall.
The Barbican was built by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, some of London's finest architects of the first post-war generation. Their structures from the 1950s are well known, such as the Golden Lane area near the Barbican.
The Barbican is located in the heart of London, in the City, ten minutes walk from St. Paul's Cathedral. In the old days, there was a district of the city called Cripple Gate: there was a gate with that name. The fortress wall on this section is older than in other parts of the city: at first there was a Roman camp here, and when London was surrounded by walls, its fortifications were included in their composition.
It is surprising that the ancient walls are well preserved here: after all, this zone was very damaged by the bombings of the Second World War, and in 1951 only 48 people lived there. In 1957, London City Hall decided to completely clear the area and rebuild the area.
The entire Barbican is owned by the City of London Corporaton. A girls' school, a music school and the London Museum nearby are also offices of the London government. The new name of the area refers to its ancient history: barbican in English is a fortress tower with a gate.
Residential buildings and platforms were built in 1965-1976, the school of music and drama in 1977, the cultural center was completed in 1982. The complex is considered an example of British brutalism. Indeed, it is the architecture of rough concrete surfaces and exposed massive structures. Galleries and platforms have fleshy edges bent upwards instead of fences.
In general, the main thing that makes the Barbican a monument of its era is the countless esplanades and passages. The microdistrict of "classical" modernism is a separate house, standing on a green meadow. And here a multi-tiered network of passages intertwines the houses so that the array becomes an integral organism, which, like any organism, is capable of growing. Bridges are thrown from the platforms of the Barbican in different directions - on the flat roofs of neighboring buildings, sometimes built later, and sometimes even earlier than himself, to the neighboring Museum of London, to the office towers under construction now. Pedestrian and automobile communications, separated into different layers of space, the interpretation of the district and the city as an organism - these are all urban planning ideas of the 1960s. Here they are embodied with rare clarity.
It is interesting to wander around the Barbican, as in any labyrinth. It looks like a journey full of unexpected adventures: either underfoot open gaps with towers of Roman times, private gardens inaccessible to outsiders, tiers of utility rooms, or one-hundred-meter triangular towers float out from behind a turn, turning to you with one or another sharp angle. Narrow passages now go straight, now bend, now dive into the dark, open belly of the building. Walking around the area, I often met people like me, people with open mouths and large cameras.
The concrete body of the district is porous like bread. Residential floors of houses-plates are raised on poles above pedestrian platforms, as if put on pallets. The houses are not adjacent to each other, and bridges are thrown across the gaps on each floor. Support beams protrude from under the slabs, and from some points, standing flush with the ceiling, you can look far into the depth between them. The building of the music school seems to be torn apart: separately - a concrete frame, separately - cubes of premises inserted into it. Even the platform parapets, converging at right angles, do not close - a narrow gap remains between them.
A separate pleasure is to look at the details. A special façade pattern has been developed for the stylobate parts. The doors in different parts of the complex are different, but they use the same motive: a long vertical window, rounded at the top and bottom, or a metal plate of the same shape.
The cultural center of the Barbican, the center of the entire complex, faces the southern facade of the main square with a pond, a church and the remains of the fortress wall. On its other side, there is a deserted semicircular square (it is also the roof of the lower floors of the cultural center). This is an important London cultural venue: since the early 1980s, very good exhibitions have often been held there, and there is a library. The lobby and dining room are teeming with creative youth.
The cultural center has well-preserved interiors: multi-colored illumination of the caissons, original doors and, it seems, sometimes even the original furniture. The dining room and restaurant are located one above the other on different floors and feature 1960s furnishings. In the dining room, I looked at several chairs by the Dutch company Ahrend, designed by Friso Kramer. They are stamped with the same date - 1969. And the building itself was built in 1982. Riddle.
In our country, modernism is traditionally not liked. It seems to me that the best way to dispel this old enmity is to take a man to the Barbican. It is impossible not to admire this architecture. I hope my photos convey a bit of the impression she gives on the first visit.