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The Barbican Centre BUIL1166 Introduction to Building Environment and Construction Georgi Radev

Introduction The Barbican Centre is a performing arts centre, which holds contemporary art exhibitions, live music concerts, theatre performances and film screenings. The Barbican Performing Arts Centre was designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in the Brutalist style. It was opened in 1982 by Queen Elizabeth II. The whole complex has a bad history, because it was a victim of mass bomb attacks during the Second World War. That is why most of the buildings we see today were renovated and have a new look from the original ones built in the past. Also, during the years more and more elements were added to the complex like statues, fountains etc. in order for it to look more modern.

However, in 2003 in a London Poll the Barbican Centre has been voted as “London`s ugliest building”. The whole atmosphere of the whole housing complex is very unpleasant, as it`s looks. Indeed, the Barbican Performing Arts Centre and the whole Barbican housing complex has a very strange and repulsive design. The streets around the blocks are very dark and scary and most of them are empty. Most of the people in the complex have to go through dark tunnels and through those streets to go home. Not to mention, that the entrances to the buildings are very strange and put in a very unusual location so that if you don’t know, you can`t find yourself in the building, in any of them! The Barbican may be a huge housing complex and it may be located in central London, but the architectural design of the buildings – the Brutalist style – and the dark and scary atmosphere around it makes the place very unpleasant to visit.


The Barbican Centre is a very good example of a combination between natural and artificial light. This kind of combination between the natural sunlight/daylight/ and the artificial lightning inside the building has been successfully achieved with a few tactics. The natural sunlight enters the building from huge windows and lights nearly half of the

spaces but to be able to light more, small windows have been placed on top of the big ones on about a 45 degrees angle allowing more sunlight to enter the spaces and to light it up. For the rest of the spaces that could not be lighted by the sunlight, different kinds of artificial lightning has been placed so as to support the lightning in the space.


Ground The Barbican Centre is a massive concrete building. Concrete is an artificial material produced by men through mixture of other materials. The basic concrete is created by mixing cement, water, sand and gravel. Though that is the basic concrete, there are many other types of concrete that exist and many of them are used in construction process`. Despite its massive concrete structure, the Barbican Centre, when renovated after World War 2, has been completely changed into a new more modern building. Now the Barbican Centre still remains as a massive concrete building but modern technology and architecture has changed the looks of the building.

The slightly domed (and unsupported) Sculpture Court sits on top of the main arts centre hall and yet you’d have no clue standing in it what was beneath your feet. There are no permanent sculptures, but this area has housed temporary sculpture exhibitions as well as theatrical performances.

The concrete is pick hammered and so technically ‘decorated’ which very much goes against Beton Brut, where the word brutalism comes from. Beton Brut raw concrete was often left with wood grains from the on-site moulds to communicate constructional honesty.

Water Water Supply The provision of adequate cold water supplies is the statutory responsibility of the Metropolitan Water Board and supplies are takes from the Board`s mains surrounding the site. The lake the lake and fountains which form the centre piece of the Barbican landscaping operate on a straight recirculation system. In times of heavy rainfall excess water is discharged by an overflow; there is also provision for emptying the lake when required for maintenance and cleaning. After draining, or in dry conditions when rainfall is insufficient to balance evaporation losses, the lake can be filled or topped up from hydrant points. The recirculation system is designed to provide a complete turnover about once every two days.


A DEC ‘73/C’ rated building, the Barbican Centre is committed under BS8901 to reduce this rating by one point per annum. The absolute annual unit energy consumption over the past two years has reduced by -7.9%. The building services function, operation, maintenance and projects are delivered using an in-house team of 36 staff including Managers, Supervisors & trade Engineers/Technicians on a 24/7, 365 day basis. This team also operates/maintains the Guildhall School of Music & Drama conservatoires building stock. As a consequence the Barbican Centre’s Carbon Mitigation strategy/reduction plan is modelled upon that from the HE sector requirements.


Synthesis From all the visits to the Barbican Centre and all the research, I`ve learned quite a lot for the Barbican Centre and Estate as a whole. I found a new way for the air to pass through buildings through a combination of both technical and passive air movement. I`ve also learned how the light can affect the building`s overlook or how the water can be both useful as a resource in a building and as an aesthetic look resource. I`ve learned more about the concrete and what the specific type of concrete is used for the construction of the Barbican Centre or how buildings are configured as an efficient or non-efficient building for energy consumption. And last but not least how a building can be both very busy as a number of visitors each day/month/year and kept very clean at the same time.

Conclusion As a quite old building, the Barbican Centre and the whole Estate are built in an old architecture style called Brutalism as massive concrete structures or “monsters� as some people refer it. However, the Barbican Performing Arts Centre has an amazing overall for a building not to contemporary. Everything the building has to offer it quite well thought of and made and still functional today! Despite the great overall of the concept of the building, the design is the key fact that needs to be changed into something a bit more contemporary and attention catching. The massive concrete structure needs to be renewed as it was renewed after the Second World War into something modern and more functional, in order to fulfil the desires of the contemporary society.

The Barbican Centre