An inner city development

complex designed by Chamberlain, Powell and Bon in 1959 that is the example of a total urban design project described here. The design for the site, however, went through several iterations before that design became the one implemented.

During the 1950s, traffic congestion resulting from the increasing employment in the City was a major problem requiring attention. While the number ofjobs located there was soaring, the residential population of the City had plummeted from 125,000 in 1851 to 5000 a hundred years later. One public policy goal of the council was to attract people to live in the City again. The Barbican was a response.

The City Corporation of London (now Corporation of London) was originally the sponsor of the project. It had started purchasing land at the end of World War II and by 1954 had acquired freehold possession of 50% of the site and had taken steps to acquire an additional 25%. It was, however, the London County Council who ultimately promoted the project. In addition, an architectural leader, Sir Gerald Barry, formed the New Barbican Committee as a political pressure group to take the lead in shaping the type of development that was to occur. It was the Committee that developed the first building programme for the site.

The programme specified that a single scheme should be built. It was to provide accommodation, reduce traffic congestion, preserve the few historical buildings that remained on the site, and have generous open spaces and gardens without them being overshadowed by buildings. The goal was to create a 'city monument' (New Barbican, 1954). The programme represented the beginning of a 25-year total urban design effort that involved five major possible designs produced over a 5-year period and the ultimate selection of the last of them for implementation.

Kadleigh, Whitfield and Horsburgh produced the first scheme in 1954 at the behest of the New Barbican Committee. The firm proposed a multi-level, multi-use megastructure that it hoped would capture the public's imagination (see Figure 7.9a). The design consisted of four levels of underground warehousing served by its own road/rail system plus parking for 3000 cars. The historic buildings would be set in parks as objects in space. The already-proposed new highway would be located along the site's southern boundary. A four-storey warehouse podium layered with four-storey terrace houses would surround the complex. Five point-towers, and a trade and hotel/conference centre would act as major landmarks on the site. This bold design succeeded in arousing public interest in the project. The rivalry between the London County Council and the City Corporation led to more radical proposals but the tone had been set for the nature of the project.

The first of the alternative schemes came from the London County Council's Planning Division; it was the Martin/Meade Plan (see Figure 7.9b). The proposal was less controversial than the first scheme. It consisted of a lower-density residential development with office buildings set in parkland, several blocks of building for general commerce and two main office towers. The City Corporation soon came back with an alternative (see Figure 7.9c). Its Planning Division produced a design whose density of development was between the two earlier proposals. It was predominantly a commercial development but included residential buildings and two point towers. Unlike the earlier proposals it had defined streets.

The need for massive public financing led to the involvement of the central government in the project. The then Minister for Housing and Local Government, Duncan Sandys, argued for a residential neighbourhood with schools, shops and open spaces even if it meant 'foregoing a more remunerative return on the land' (Cantacuzino, 1973). His pleading found little support in the marketplace. What did take place was that the responsibility for designing of the

Figure 7.9 Proposed designs for the Barbican, London. (a) The Kadleigh, Whitfield and Horsburgh proposal (1954), (b) the London County Council proposal (1955), (c) the London City Corporation proposal (1955) and (d) the Chamberlain, Powell and Bon scheme.

Figure 7.9 Proposed designs for the Barbican, London. (a) The Kadleigh, Whitfield and Horsburgh proposal (1954), (b) the London County Council proposal (1955), (c) the London City Corporation proposal (1955) and (d) the Chamberlain, Powell and Bon scheme.

project was moved from the public sector agencies to private firms.

The next proposal (1955), the fourth, was rejected by the London County Council because of its high densities and despite the amount of open space, the lack oflarge ones. The scheme, designed by Chamberlain, Powell and Bon, built on the first proposal prepared for the New Barbican Committee. In order to be economically viable, it was a high population density scheme (750 people per hectare). Four-storey buildings were organized in a checkerboard pattern around a series of alternating public and private courts. The firm significantly revised this scheme in order to meet the approval ofboth the County Council and the City Corporation. The City Corporation approved the revised Chamberlain, Powell and Bon scheme in November 1959. It is this scheme that is a total urban design although not as totally under one control as Brasilia or the capital complex at Chandigarh. The project consists of a multi-level circulation system, tower blocks, a theatre, restaurants, internal lawns and water gardens (see Figure 7.9d).

The history of the proposals and their rejections is not unique to the development of the Barbican. In total urban designs of its nature in democratic countries with different

Figure 7.10 A view from the elevated walkway in 2004. See page 2 for another.

interest group struggling for recognition and different approval agencies vying for power, designs evolve. Implementation does not come easily either. The construction of the Barbican took 20 years, during which time the programme and thus the design were altered. Strikes, traffic concerns and changes in the demands of the marketplace continued to affect the scheme. Building costs soared, making its original aim of providing for low-income earners difficult to achieve.

The scheme, as built, consisted of 2113 flats, maisonettes and terrace houses, mostly in blocks of six stories high and ranging in size from one to five rooms, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the City of London School for Girls, a fire station, the Coroner's Court and Mortuary, two hotels, shops, restaurants and pubs, and sports facilities. It is a complex scheme. Parking, refuse removal and drainage all had to be integrated into a functioning whole (Figure 7.10).

It has been a scheme much praised and much criticized. Today, it does have a somewhat foreboding presence for the visitor and way-finding is not easy, but its detailed landscaping and attention to building finishes at least partially offset the negative. It is a fine legacy of1950s and 1960s total urban design ideology. The Barbican received heritage listing in September 2001. Critics see it as a subsidized housing development for the wealthy. It has certainly been a popular place to live.

Major references

A great place to live (2001). The Guardian. Friday, 7 September. 0,3604,548152,00.html Cantacuzino, Sherban (1973). The Barbican development, City of London. Architectural Review 154 (918): 66-90. New Barbican (1954). The Architects' Journal 120: 456-66.

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