Barbican Centre

Barbican Centre

Infobox Theatre
name = Barbican Centre

image_size = 194
caption = Logo of the Barbican Centre
address = Silk Street
city = London
country = UK
designation = Grade II listed building
latitude = 51.5202
longitude = -0.0950
architect = Chamberlin, Powell and Bon
owner = City of London Corporation
capacity = Barbican Hall: 1949
Barbican Theatre: 1156
The Pit: 200
type = performing arts centre
opened = 1982
production =
currentuse =
website =

Barbican Centre is the largest performing arts centre in Europe. [cite web |title="About Barbican", from the Barbican's website | url= | accessdate=2007-08-29] Located in the north of the City of London, England, in the heart of the Barbican Estate, the Centre hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also houses a library, 3 restaurants and a conservatory. The London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are based in the Barbican Centre's concert hall.

The Barbican Centre is owned, funded and managed by the City of London Corporation, the third largest funder of the arts in the United Kingdom. It was built as the City's gift to the nation, and opened in 1982, at a historical capital cost of £161 million (the equivalent to almost £400 million in 2007). [ History of the Barbican Estate] from the City of London website, accessed: 11 January 2007]

Performance halls and facilities

* Barbican Hall: capacity 1,949; home of the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
* Barbican Theatre: capacity 1,166
* Pit: flexible 200-seat theatre venue
* Art Gallery and The Curve:
* Barbican Cinema - 3 screens: seating capacity: 288, 255 and 155
* Informal performance spaces.
* Restaurants: 3
* Conference halls: 7
* Trade exhibition halls: 2

History and Design

The Centre had a long development period, only opening long after the surrounding Barbican Estate housing complex had been built. It is sited on an area which was badly bombed during World War II.

The Centre has a complex multi-level layout with numerous entrances, making circulation difficult for some. Lines painted on the ground to help would-be audience members avoid getting lost on the walkways of the Barbican Housing Estate en route to the Centre. The Centre's design – a concrete ziggurat – has always been controversial and divides opinion. It was voted "London's ugliest building" in a Grey London poll in September 2003 [ [ "Barbican tops ugly buildings poll", BBC News, 22 September 2006] accessed 11 January 2007] . In September 2001 the then arts minister, Tessa Blackstone, announced in that the Barbican complex was to be a Grade II listed building. It has been designated a site of special architectural interest for its scale, its cohesion and the ambition of the project. [ [ Listing of the Barbican complex] (City of London) accessed: 11 January 2007] . A younger generation increasingly admires Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the architects' brutalist design.Fact|date=October 2007 This architecture practice also designed the Barbican Housing Estate and the nearby Golden Lane Estate. Project architect John Honer later worked on the British Library at St Pancras – a red brick ziggurat.

In the mid-1990s a cosmetic improvement scheme by Theo Crosby, of the Pentagram design studio, added statues and decorative features reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement. In 2005-6, the Centre underwent a more significant refurbishment, designed by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, which improved circulation and introduced bold signage in a style in keeping with the Centre's original 1970s Brutalist architecture. That improvement scheme added an internal bridge linking the Silk Street foyer area with the lakeside foyer area. The Centre's Silk Street entrance, previously dominated by an access for vehicles, was modified to give better pedestrian access. The scheme included removing most of the mid-1990s embellishments.

Outside, the main focal point of the Centre is the lake and its neighbouring terrace. The theatre's fly tower has been surrounded by glass and made into a spectacular high-level conservatory. The Barbican Hall's acoustic has also been controversial: some praised it as attractively warm, but others found it too dry for large-scale orchestral performance.

In 1994, Chicago acoustician Larry Kirkegaard oversaw a £500,000 acoustic re-engineering of the hall "producing a perceptible improvement in echo control and sound absorption", music critic Norman Lebrecht wrote in October 2000 [ [ "Concert-Hall Blues - Oh for an Acceptable Symphonic Environment" – Lebrecht Weekly, 11 October 2000] .Retrieved on 2007-08-16.] – and returned in 2001 to rip out the stage canopy and drop adjustable acoustic reflectors, designed by Caruso St John, from the ceiling, as part of a £7.5 mn refurbishment of the hall. Art music magazine "Gramophone" still complained about "the relative dryness of the Barbican acoustic" in August 2007. [ [ August 2007 "Gramophone" quoted at "LSO CD Reviews", London Symphony Orchestra website, undated] .Retrieved on 2007-08-16.]

The theatre was built as the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which was involved in the design, but the RSC left in 2002 after a series of allegedly poor seasons and because the then artistic director, Adrian Noble, wanted to develop the company's touring performances. The theatre's response was to extend its existing six-month season of international productions, Barbican International Theatre Event, to the whole year. BITE celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008. [cite web | last=Shenton | first=Mark | title=Barbican box office upsurge follows identity make-over | work=The Stage | date=2005-10-22 | url=| accessdate=2007-11-28 ]

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the City of London's Barbican Library, neither part of the centre, are also on the site. The Museum of London, is nearby at Aldersgate, and is also within the Barbican Estate.

Nearby railway stations

*Barbican tube station
*Farringdon station
*Moorgate tube station
*Liverpool Street railway station

ee also

*List of major concert halls
*Barbican Estate
*Museum of London


External links

* [ The Barbican Centre official website]
* [ The history of the Barbican Estate]
* [,3605,660292,00.html "Martin Kettle, "Good Old Barbican", "The Guardian" (London), 2 March 2002] Analysis of the Centre after 20 years.

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