Last night I had the unpleasant experience of attending a meeting at the London Barbican.This is, unaccountably, a Grade II listed building and heralded as one of London’s ‘best examples of Brutalist architecture’. So that you can avoid them, The Barbican was developed from designs by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon as part of a utopian vision to transform an area of London left devastated by bombing during the Second World War. Frankly, the bombed sites would have looked more attractive.There have been attempts recently to rescue Brutalism for its dire, dreary reputation by those with an an historic enthusiasm, but no discernible aesthetic taste. I can report that it is actually worse than you can imagine.Firstly, dirty, rough, concrete walls everywhere, inside and out.Hugely depressing.Secondly, labyrinthine, atrociously planned levels and corridors and interconnections between buildings so convoluted that you cannot imagine any competent, qualified architect designing them. A random computer programme could have done better. Thirdly, the hideous looming blocks and tatty galleries for the large number of apartments in the development all with little utilitarian windows and absolutely lacking in style, by which I mean aesthetically pleasing style rather than an assault on visual senses . And lastly, the ‘open spaces’ – sterile, unfriendly stretches of dark brown brick paving everywhere with no relief, with rigid, repetitious boxes of plants set around odd seats and some overgrown jardiniers , yet more concrete, perhaps intended to provide nature with expression in this appalling, bleak city-scape. I expect this was laughably intended as a public leisure and garden space , but no one would want to spend time in these hard, unsympathetic bleak passageways , which is what they have become.And you can lose your way in the Barbican and never find your destination, so they are obliged to have wandering members of staff around to tell you how to get out.How anyone can try to apotheosise this massively awful, sterile, architectural mistake is beyond me.The South Bank brute developments are the same.”Come lovely bombs and drop on the Barbican” to parodying John Betjeman’s phrase.
See World Wit &Wisdom
The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines. Frank Lloyd Wright
Ghastly good taste or the depressing story of the rise and fall of British architecture. John Betjeman
We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. Winston Churchill
The British love permanence more than they love beauty. Sir Hugh Casson