When Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the Barbican Arts Centre in 1982, she called it “one of the wonders of the modern world.” Designed by the architects Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, the multidisciplinary arts centre was the materialisation of a vision to revive an area of London that been almost completely wiped out by the German bombings of the Second World War.
The Barbican Arts Centre is part of the larger Barbican Estate, a name that derives from the Latin word ‘Barbecana’, a fortified outpost or gateway used for defence purposes. This huge complex of more than sixteen hectares consists of three 43-storey residential towers – known as Shakespeare, Cromwell and Lauderdale – and a series of thirteen seven-storey blocks. Construction began in 1965, following a utopian urban planning project that combined art, architecture, public space and community living. When completed, the Barbican towers were the tallest residential towers in Europe.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, although not far from other London landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Tate Modern, this unique venue is a peaceful oasis of concrete buildings with elevated gardens, lakes, ramps, stairs and columns.
CENTRE FOR THE ARTS
The Barbican Arts Centre comprises three restaurants, two theatres, two art galleries, three cinemas, a conservatory – the largest in all of London, with over two thousand species of plants and trees —, one library, seven conference halls and several performance spaces.
The concert hall is home to both the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the theatre is the main venue of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama is also located in the Barbican.
Over a million people attend the four thousand events programmed annually, which feature hundreds of international artists and performers of all major art forms, including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts, making the Barbican Arts Centre one of the leading arts and learning organisations in the world.