Regularly described as one of London’s ugliest buildings, the Barbican Estate is an icon of British brutalist architecture.
When she officially opened the complex in 1982, the Queen called the Barbican ‘one of the wonders of the modern world’.
Not much has changed since then: the estate is Grade II listed, so residents are severely limited in what they can change.
Its three concrete towers, rising 42 stories into the sky, have become a firm part of London’s skyline and the complex in its entirety is hailed a landmark.
Today, its 2,014 flats are home to an estimated 4,000 people while the Barbican Centre, one of London’s (and, in fact, Europe’s) leading performing arts venues attracts thousands of visitors every year.
In the late 1970s, photographer Peter Bloomfield spent four years amongst builders and architects, documenting the final steps towards completion of the concrete complex.
Between 5 November 1979 and 3 March 1983, Bloomfield took over 1,400 photos, from the scaffolding coming down to Henry Wong, the estate’s first managing director, cutting a birthday cake in celebration of the Barbican’s first birthday.
More than 30 years later, the Barbican have released a selection of Bloomfield’s images.
Devoid of people, they document the landmark’s scale and ambition while capturing the Barbican’s iconic (if slightly gloomy) aesthetic of raw, textured concrete.
A view across the lake of the then front of the Barbican Centre featuring the Barbican Estate and St Giles of Cripplegate in the foreground, October 1981
Two workmen survey the Lakeside façacde, November 1979
Planting begins to take place in the Conservatory, March 1980
A construction worker hand-drills the textured effect on the Foyer walls, November 1979
Beneath the Barbican, construction continues in the boiler room, November 1979
A tree makes its way into the Conservatory from Silk Street via crane, March 1980
The Lakeside fountain begins to emerge from the concrete, November 1979
A view of a scaffolding-filled stage in the Theatre, November 1979
Frobisher Crescent and the Sculpture Court, September 1981
A view of the Conservatory
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