Unseen Photos Of The Barbican's Construction

By M@ Last edited 18 months ago
Unseen Photos Of The Barbican's Construction

A rediscovered archive of unseen photographs reveal the early years of the Barbican, that sprawling complex of concrete, concrete and more concrete on the northern edge of the City. The images, by photographer Peter Bloomfield, were commissioned to mark the final stages of the Barbican's construction in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and have been in private hands until now.

The main theatre, strewn with scaffolding.

Over 1,400 negatives were recently gifted to the Barbican by Bloomfield. A new book, Building the Brutal, presents 70 of the best. The book is supported by a microsite, which contains a fascinating set of 'then-and-now' slider images.

A panoramic view of the Barbican from above.

The book reveals some little-known secrets about the Barbican. Did you know, for example, that the cratered surfaces were not part of the concrete pour, but were laboriously applied with hand-drills. Here's one of the lucky workers, getting stuck in to his Sisyphean task.

The centre's famous conservatory did not sprout on site. Here's a ready-grown tree being craned into place from Silk Street in 1980.

And here the nascent garden takes root...

Beneath the public spaces lurks a tangled space of pipes and conduits.

By contrast, the empty galleries, awaiting their first exhibition, are a model of clean lines and spaciousness.

The place soon started to fill up. Here, the London Symphony Orchestra plays a daringly open-air concert in 1982.

Visitors relax by the lake-side in the browns and pastels of the early 1980s.

And finally, Barbican Director Henry Wrong (left) and architect John Horner (right) sign a contract without even looking. Clever fellows.

The book Building the Brutal is available for pre-order now for £15, while further images can be browsed online.

Photography by Peter Bloomfield © Barbican Centre, 2016  

Last Updated 24 February 2016

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I wish I could sign my name without looking! ;-)