The sight of the Barbican towers cutting against bleak London skies brings to mind JG Ballard’s 1975 novel ‘High-Rise’ about the slow decay of a luxury tower block building as the well-off inhabitants descend into violence and chaos. But that’s science-fiction. The combined forces of monumental brutalist architecture, nature and the course of time have created a happy human habitat.
Built on a World War II bomb site, the Barbican is an inner city oasis abundant in culture, greenery and lakes. Specifically targeted at affluent city workers, it houses approximately 4000 residents, an art centre, a school, restaurants and shops. Brick-lined public walkways connect the different parts and levels. Coarse, bush-hammered concrete walls give the feel of moving on the edge of cliffs. Quite the utopia.