As the Barbican arts centre approaches its 40th birthday, the site is looking at a £50-£150 million revamp to catch up with how society and arts have changed over the decades. Expectations that the arts centre would be revamped were raised earlier this year when the City of London cancelled a proposed concert hall to sit where the Museum of London currently sits, in favour of upgrading the Barbican instead.
To do this, a design competition has opened seeking architects to work with the arts centre and the City of London on the project in a way that preserves the complex’s famous brutalist architectural heritage, while adapting it to modern requirements.
The architects brief suggests that they are looking at how to open up some spaces that may not be fully used at the moment, while improving accessibility across the entire site.
The scope of the project primarily focuses on the core Barbican Centre building, though proposals are being encouraged for additional areas where opportunities may exist, including the Exhibition Halls, the entrance to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the wider public spaces surrounding the Centre.
They are expecting to see major improvements to the entrances, to make them more visible, and easier to find especially from public transport. Depending on how you arrive, the entrance at Silk Street is relatively easy to find, but the entrance is coming from the Barbican tube station is the origin of legends of people being lost for days trying to find their way around.
Fixing that side is likely to be prominent in any plan, as it ties the Art Centre in with the rest of the area’s developments, particularly with Smithfield, which is to become home to the Museum of London and a large cultural area. At the moment, the Barbican estate itself acts as a barrier between the two zones.
The budget for the redevelopment is estimated to be in the region of £100 million, although it could range from £50 to £150 million. The winning design is due to be announced next February, just ahead of the Barbican Art Centre’s 40th birthday.