Imagine being told to cast vast slabs of concrete, then told to manually grind away the surface, and do that to an entire housing estate. That is how the Barbican got its distinctive look.

A series of displays in the main foyer is going into how the Barbican was built, with rarely seen photographs from the architects, and a series of displays revealing details of the construction methods.

20150621_131901For example, the rough effect on the concrete walls was “added” later. After flat concrete walls had set for at least 21 days, workmen with handheld pick-hammers hammered away at the surface to expose the coarse granite aggregate. The residential blocks alone necessitated over 200,000m2 of concrete to be tooled.

Imagine being the worksite foreman telling staff that their job is to “ruin” the nice clean concrete they just cast.

Construction of the Barbican took several decades, deliberately so, and saw many changes to its design over the years. The small modest sized arts centre exploding in size thanks to the unexpected arrival of an arts complex on the South Bank.


They even moved a railway, as this photo showed.

Rarely seen photographs of the construction trace the progress of the gargantuan scheme which saw the bomb site turned into a brutalist architectural landmark.


The exhibition takes place in the main foyer, to the right side of the main entrance from the Barbican housing estate. Free to visit, it runs until the end of November.








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  1. Roger says:


  2. Chris says:

    I wonder if the exhibition includes anything on the poor industrial relations and strikes that accompanied the building of the Barbican. For more information and interviews with the building workers see

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