Barbican Estate celebrates 50th anniversary

With this iconic 60s architectural masterpiece being located around the corner from our St John Street offices in Farringdon, we thought it pertinent to celebrate the brutalist brilliance that is the Barbican by sharing this article, published on 1 July by City of London Corporation.

Fifty years ago this month, the first residents moved into the Barbican Estate, one of the most instantly recognisable residential estates in the country.

Designed by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the Estate was built between 1963 and 1976 on a City of London Corporation-owned 35-acre site that had been bombed extensively during the Blitz.

 This hugely ambitious project saw the construction of over 2,000 flats of 140 different types and sizes in blocks, townhouses, and three towers which, for many years, were the tallest residential towers in Europe – at 126 metres (404ft) high.

 The Estate was officially opened in July 1969, with the first tenants moving into Andrewes House, and the 42-storey Shakespeare Tower being the last building to be occupied in 1976. The Estate became home to more than 4,000 people.

 Five decades on, the Estate’s ‘Brutalist’ architecture is Grade II listed and along with the nearby Golden Lane Estate (which was also designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon), has been placed in a Conservation Area.

 Michael Hudson, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Residential Committee, said:

 “The Barbican Estate is, without doubt, an outstanding example of 1960s Brutalist architecture and an instantly recognisable London landmark.

 “In this 50th anniversary year, it is entirely right to celebrate the Estate’s iconic status and pay tribute to Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s bold and ambitious vision and creation.

 “We should also thank the exceptional community of people who live and work in, and maintain this special place, and the members of the City of London Corporation who decided to use this site for residential accommodation”.”

Aerial view of the Barbican Estate LondonDesigns for the Barbican Centre, which was to be built on the complex, were approved in 1971 and included a 1,943-seat concert hall, a 1,156-seat theatre, an art gallery, a cinema, a lending library, a tropical conservatory, and the adjacent Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

 This remarkable project took almost 10 years to build and when completed, it was opened in March 1982 by The Queen, who described it as “one of the modern wonders of the world.”

 The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages the Barbican Estate and is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.

The City Corporation is also developing Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate – a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London. This includes £192m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £4.9m for a detailed business case and next stage development, fundraising, and design work for the proposed Centre for Music.

 Click on the link to view ‘The Barbican, A City within a City’, a documentary video from the London Metropolitan Archives, made from material preserved by the BFI National Archive.

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