What is the link between summer and the Barbican Centre? If you think about the outside of this massive concrete construction, well…you could be thinking for a while. But if you think beyond the “not-very-welcoming” walls, you will find one. And even better, if you venture beyond these walls, you will definitely know what we are talking about.
Let’s jump over the wall and discover what is on the other side…
The Barbican, the largest performing art centre in Europe (built in 1982), takes its name from the Latin word Barbecana which means fortified outpost or gateway. The Barbican’s history and its site’s history are rich.
This short animation explains it really well:
Nowadays, the Barbican is an interesting place where a lot takes place on a daily basis. This is a place where Art, Dance, Film, Music, Learning, Education, Restaurants and Theatre meet.
When we went there, we were lucky to meet a guy called Robert who offered to guide us through part of the Barbican. That was utterly unexpected but welcomed since Robert had been living there for 18 years! He was disabled and was in a wheelchair following a health issue several years ago. He had learnt to see the Barbican from a different angle to most people. He enjoyed living there very much and taught us how to also see the Barbican with different eyes. Something we would have failed to do on our own.
He showed us how the buildings and benches were
perfectly aligned; how the sun reflection on the buildings give them a particular colour; how looking from under the staircase of a specific tower block we could get a unique view towards the sky; how some three dimensional buildings appear to be flat (= two dimensional). He truly opened our eyes on this unique structure that is the Barbican.
After we said goodbye to him, we started to explore the complex with a new found curiosity and we tried to go to each little corner to see what we could see from there.
If you visit it, we encourage you to do the same. Don’t visit it thinking this is a massive concrete jungle. If you do that, you will be bored quickly. Visit it “as if you were a child” in a giant labyrinth and by trying to see things from different angles.
If you do that, you will be amazed and you will understand why this is such an interesting estate.
What we also like about the Barbican is that it is a great place where you can relax and soak in the sun. The Barbican’s brutalist architecture is impressive but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea so you might not like watching the concrete buildings. But there is something that pretty much everybody will enjoy and that is…. the nice little garden, the little fountains, the cafes etc.
There is a conservatory at the Barbican too. It is the second biggest conservatory in London (after Kew gardens). This little hidden treasure is home to exotic fish and over 2000 species of tropical plants and trees. The atmosphere there is unbelievably relaxing. You really feel like lazing around when you are there.
The temperature within the conservatory is actually reasonable and it doesn’t feel hot. So even if it’s hot outside you won’t be baking inside it.
The Barbican Centre is a fascinating place. There is a lot to enjoy there.
This might not sound like the obvious place where you want to go on a sunny summer day but give it a try and you will be pleasantly surprised!
You will understand why people are so relaxed there and you will have that feeling of being in a sort of culturally and historically rich cocoon right in the heart of London.