Previously Unseen Images Of Barbican Under Construction

Previously Unseen Images Of Barbican Under Construction
19 August 1965: Construction site of housing development III of the Barbican. The construction of this complex megastructure was designed to be carried out in six phases and different contractors worked on the site. In 1964 John Laing and Son Ltd won the tender for housing phase III and they finished Speed House in 1968. The company were also responsible for the construction of the Barbican Arts Centre (phase V) which was begun in the early 1970s and completed in 1981.  © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Previously archived images of the Barbican under construction are now available online.

The images appear on Historic England's Breaking New Ground — a collection of 2,000 newly-digitised images from the John Laing Photographic Collection.

30 Jun 1978: © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Laing was established in 1848 as a Carlisle building company by James Laing. It grew to become a major construction company in the UK and internationally. John Laing started work with his father's company at the age of 14, and eventually won the company contracts on some of the biggest projects in the UK, including Barbican.

The company likes to employ photographers to capture its work.

1974: The Barbican estate - Speed House and Willoughby House with a view of the lake in the foreground. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Work began on building London’s Barbican development in 1962, although it wasn't until 1981 — and the opening of the Barbican Arts Centre — that the complex was finally completed.

27 May 1981: Interior view of the Barbican Arts Centre showing seating area and steps leading to main foyer. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
October 1968: View of living room of show flat number one at the Barbican site at Moorfields. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
20 November 1972: Queen Elizabeth II and the Lord Mayor of London pictured on a walkway at the Barbican development, on the day of the Queen's silver wedding anniversary. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
20 November 1972: Queen Elizabeth II at the Barbican site on the day of her silver wedding anniversary, during a visit to unveil the foundation stone for the new Arts Centre. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Another major London project that Laing worked on was London Central Mosque. Its construction was unusual in that the domed roof was built before the walls were.

10 December 1975: A view from a high vantage point showing steelwork for the domed roof of the prayer hall during the construction of the London Central Mosque. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic
24 September 1975: A group portrait of the site team at the London Central Mosque, stood in front of the minaret on the penultimate day of the slipforming operation. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

The mosque's 43-metre-high minaret, meanwhile, was constructed using 'slipforming'; the site team worked in 12-hour long day and night shifts, six days a week, to steadily pour the the concrete that created the tower.

24 September 1975: A view of the flat concrete roof of the prayer hall at the London Central Mosque supported by a mass of temporary scaffolding, prior to the construction of the dome or the walls of the building. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
24 September 1975: A view at night of the slipform minaret under construction at the London Central Mosque. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
29 October 1976: Three Laing workers fixing gold-coloured copper alloy sheeting to the domed roof of the main prayer hall at the London Central Mosque.  © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
14 April 1977: Men working on the geometric tile decoration for the domed ceiling of the main prayer hall at the London Central Mosque.  © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

The initial 2,000 images are the first batch of a total 10,000 images that will be accessible to the public by autumn 2020.

18 May 1977: Interior view of the main prayer hall at the London Central Mosque, with one of four columns supporting the domed ceiling shown in the foreground. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.
3 June 1977: London Central Mosque taken from the west, showing the arcaded elevations of the northern and eastern ranges.  © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Other London images include a photoshoot outside St Thomas' Hospital, feating members of the Laing team working on hospital construction, posing with film star John Wayne. It was taken during the filming of the movie Brannigan.

The actor John Wayne meeting staff working at the St Thomas' Hospital construction site. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Among the non-Londony photos on the archive that caught our eye are the construction of the brutalist concrete waves of Preston bus station, the spire-crowning of the modern Coventry Cathedral, and the M1 motorway.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: "The Collection offers unparalleled insight into the construction of 20th century Britain... We hope it will shine a light on prominent and everyday British landmarks, and inspire the next generation to enjoy and engage in the built heritage all around us.”

26 June 1984: Three men wearing Draeger gas masks during a safety course at the British Library construction site. The British Library was designed by the architect Colin St John Wilson and was built between 1982 and 1999 by the contractor John Laing Limited. © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Check out John Laing Collection: Breaking New Ground

Last Updated 10 January 2020