Friday, 10 February 2017

London: Barbican Life

Who are you calling ugly?

Beech Gardens in the summertime.
The Barbican often divides Londoners - a huge, brown concrete complex in the middle of the square mile which is home to an arts centre, cinemas, a conservatory and 2,000 flats. One of those 2,000 has been my home for nearly three years, a tiny studio apartment which compensates for its miniscule size by being part of a new architectural and social vision, and for revealing new secrets on a weekly basis. The fifteen minute walk to work is appreciated and one of, but not the only, reason for making this part of London my home.

Frobisher Crescent taken from the Sculpture Court.
At weekends, photographers, tourists and students come onto the Barbican Estate to take photos, attend architecture tours or just have a nose around. Sometimes they are just lost looking for the cinema (it's underneath as the Barbican is on a raised "podium" level so also remember it is "P" and not "G" in the lifts!). The Barbican has evolved with time but aspects of the original vision remain - cultivation of window boxes on balconies is actively encouraged and while the Barbican supermarket could not compete with Tesco Metro, there's now a farm shop selling freshly baked bread and organic produce. I still have not yet made a Sunday morning trip for fresh pastries. 

The residents' garden looking deceptively inviting on a January day.
Residents have access to private gardens which often feel like they are just mine, albeit with the surrounding flats having the best view out of their circular "Hobbit hole" windows. Barbican residents are, it is fair to say, generally a little older than I am. It's not "just bankers looking for a place to crash Monday - Friday" who live here, I've had the best conversations with people who have called the Barbican their home for over thirty years and have seen so many changes to this part of London.

The Barbican Kitchen and the terrace block overlooking the lake.
There's never not something to do at the Arts Centre (which offers discounted membership for residents) and the conservatory (open only on Sundays, no I don't have a secret key to it) is beautiful escape from the rain and gloom. On a sunny day, sitting by the lake with a drink in hand it feels like I am anywhere but in the middle of the City of London.

Inside the Conservatory.
It's not all concrete utopia, my shower is decidedly un-powerful, the lifts in my block sporadically temperamental and the bill for the service charge always makes its appearance when I'm contemplating long haul flights or browsing Net-A-Porter but in this city I can't imagine living anywhere else. 

St Giles Church and the lake during Ragnar Kjartansson's "Second Movement".
Barbican - Silk Street / Lauderdale Place, EC2 (Barbican or Moorgage tube)
Come have a nose around on Open Squares weekend - details here 
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