If you go to the Barbican at the moment, you can take a look at a large scale model of the estate, which is on display following conservation work.

A curiosity about the model is that the label says it was made in 1959 by McCutchon Studio, but the buildings shown in the model are from the late 1960s design that was later approved for construction. The theory is that when the successful architects, Chamberlin, Powell & Bon presented their ideas to the City of London, they reused the base and some of the parts for their presentation.

The Barbican estate hasn’t changed much, but look around the edges and you can see three office blocks, two of which have been demolished in recent years, and the third, next to the former Museum of London likely to follow soon as well.

The model is also part of a wider exhibition about the construction of the Barbican estate. A scrapbook compiled by one of the site’s engineers is on display, open to the pages that show the “Battle of the Barbican”, when workers were campaigning for better pay and conditions.

There’s also a collection of “junk”, found in a void space underneath the Barbican’s Cinema 1. They were probably left there in late 1981/early 1982, possibly by a worker having a break. The worn out shoes are a reminder of how lax health and safety was back then. Today you wouldn’t be allowed on a building site without shoes that contain a steel plate in the sole and over the toes.

Working with Google Arts and Culture, the Barbican has also catalogued and digitised thousands of architectural plans, drawings, photos, objects and leaflets. These collections can be viewed on a touchscreen in the exhibition.

The exhibition, Concrete and Clay – Archiving the Barbican is open until April 2024 and is free to visit. You can find it on the lower floor next to the shop.


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  1. Chris Rogers says:

    Talking of voids, you can still buy (actually, lease) a vast chunk of air within the base of one of the Barb towers and build a flat there if you have £3.5m to spare (and that’s just for the air)…


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