The Barbican’s a bit like Marmite: you either love it or hate it. But whatever your stance, there’s no denying that this broad-shouldered, brutalist beauty – home to a thriving arts centre, schools, restaurants, shops and more than 2,000 apartments – is an architectural feat. Queen Elizabeth called it “one of the modern wonders of the world”.
Built on a bomb site, in line with the northern walls of the ancient City of London, the postwar complex was designed in the 1950s by UK architecture firm Chamberlin, Powell & Bon and finally opened by the queen in 1982. In terms of inner-city living, it was – and still is – hard to beat: three 43-storey residential towers and 13 seven-storey blocks offer views of the cityscape and are softened by lush elevated gardens and mini manmade lakes. And when it comes to culture, there are spaces devoted to art, theatre, film, music and dance. (Don’t miss The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945, an exhibition about postwar Japanese domestic architecture, on until 25 June.)
Admittedly, the coarse aggregate concrete surfaces can look a little grey on a rainy day but this city within a city – free of cars – is a labyrinth worth getting lost in.
Barbican, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS.