Inside the Barbican’s hidden world
Beatriz Garcia Elorza has lived in the Barbican since 1972, but she still chuckles at a cartoon her late husband clipped from Private Eye more than 25 years ago. It shows a concerned citizen at the missing person bureau of a police station. “Have you tried the Barbican?” asks the officer. Does she ever get lost, after almost 50 years? “Sometimes,” she admits with a grin.
You get the feeling that for the Barbican’s 6,000 residents, losing the odd visitor is a small price to pay for living in one of London’s most sought-after addresses. It’s now 50 years since residents moved into the Barbican, with Speed House – where Garcia Elorza lives – the first block completed. After the area, then known as Cripplegate, was flattened in the Blitz, the City of London saw an opportunity to build something exciting. The old street plan was replaced with terraces, crescents and towers, as well as schools, lakes, two private gardens, a conservatory and an arts centre, all linked by elevated walkways. The required minimum income for residents was set at a level designed to attract middle-class City workers – and with the Corporation of the City of London as landlord, the Barbican would never deteriorate.
It took time: planning began in the Fifties, and when Garcia Elorza arrived almost 20 years later, the area was still “a wasteland”, with the arts centre not completed until the Eighties. The estate was the net result of dozens of
The Barbican estate has a recognisable brutalist style