Across this semester London has been playing majorly on my mind. Having just return from the city to complete my masters and my dissertation focusing of residential development in London, it would seem inevitable.
On returning to London recently I was struck by the immense power of the Barbican centre. It intrigued me and I struggled to understand why. However, it is beginning to become apparent that the barbican is almost the epitome of my thinking. I recently watched a video article posted by Archdaily entitled The Barbican : A lesson from London’s past for the housing crisis of today.
It discusses the purpose of the Barbican as social housing, but not social housing as we perceive it. It was not designed for the working classes of London but for the middle-class. It faced challenges in that central living was unfashionable at the time. It held a need to be safe and luxurious and provide the cultural amenities appealed to the middle class of London.
The Barbican centre is a successful urban project, that knits its way into the fabric of London seamlessly. Yet it has achieved fortress status. It’s entrances are hidden and unorthodox, it’s walls are solid and tall. Yet it is this obscurement of availability that allows the barbican to sit on the shoulder of the city and allow it the transform, move and bustle around this concrete castle.
London is not the only place facing a severe housing crisis. Dublin is also, some might say it is even worse here. But how can we learn from this brutalist masterpiece, and apply it to our own crisis. Firstly the need for housing does not belong to a particular social ranking. Analysis and data on housing needs, and identifying the social groups and their variant needs are necessary. It also begs the lesson of vision. The barbican brought middle class back to the centre of London, which is now considered to be going through a social cleanse, where the lower classes are forces further from the centre of the city. This was not the case when the barbican was being built. So what change in dwelling will happen in Dublin over the next 10,20-50 years? What alternative methods of housing can we introduce that could potentially become the norm or even the desired. As the Barbican adapted brutalist architecture to its British setting and climate, how can we take successful foreign models and adapt then to serve our city and population?
- Patrick Lynch. “The Barbican: A Lesson from London’s Past for the Housing Crisis of Today” 07 Nov 2015.ArchDaily