Friday 14 October 2022

Barbican guided tour

We are in London for a couple of days, and we started our trip with a guided tour around the Barbican.

Our guide was the liveliest, most enthusiastic person you could ever meet. She told us that she is always getting into trouble with her boss, as she loves the Barbican so much that her tours over run because she can't stop talking about such an amazing place.

We started the tour in the main lobby and she then spent over two hours firing facts and anecdotes at us whilst walking extremely quickly around the complex.

Firstly, she asked who had got lost in the buildings. Every time we have visited we have ended up randomly wandering around trying to find either the Theatre or museum or the café, and almost everyone else did too.

There is a long explanation for this, not least because there are very few signs about, but mainly because the whole area is raised up on to what she called the High Line.

The whole enormous area was bombed and destroyed in the war, and was then a blank canvas. The architects wanted all of the buildings to be full of light, so they built it on huge concrete pillars.

Once you are inside the Barbican it then gets really confusing as to what level you are on, and you end up peering over the balconies trying to work out where you need to be.

There are 2,014 apartments in the Barbican including three 43 storey tower blocks that are shaped like triangles.

The whole area is grade 2 listed and there are lots of rules that are supposed to be followed. One of these is that each apartment has a row of concrete planters on their balcony and only red or white flowers are allowed.

Work started on the area in the late 1950's and took over 20 years to complete. It must have run massively over budget too and was extremely unpopular with local people. Also, as it took so long the council kept adding or taking away buildings, which is why everything is so higgledy piggledy.

The above picture is of sunken gardens in the lake, but there is also a sculpture park with no sculptures, huge exhibition halls that are not used and a three storey conservatory (second largest in London after Kew) that was added at the last minute to hide an ugly warehouse. 

This warehouse was added just before the conservatory and housed all of the props for the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose Theatre was added sometime before that. 

I'm going to stop now as it's making my head spin.

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