Ana Barbican Centre

The KOMPAS Team have been chatting with some Londoners about their favourite place in the city, and why it means so much to them, for a project called KOMPAS Stories. This is the second instalment in the series, and for this article, we spoke to our friend Ana about her favourite London location, the Barbican Centre.

My favourite place in London is the Barbican. It’s part of the post-war style of Brutalism and reminds me of an architect I like, Le Corbusier, who also worked in that style. Le Corbusier focused a lot on building structures that bring people together, and which have an ideal of community behind them. The Barbican is made of concrete, which makes it bare and in a way very… real. In this kind of architecture, the content of the structure is really its heart, which I think is fascinating, and the content is the people who live, work, or visit there. You can see similar things across Europe. Some people can’t stand them, but I like how those buildings revolve around the interaction between people, almost like a little ant colony where you’re going down different corridors and running into each other.

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People can do different things: they can go for food…actually in the Barbican you can have the best macchiato in the world – it’s really good. You can go to the movies: they have cinemas with an amazing film programme. You don’t just get the regular stuff but also arthouse and old films, like a great series of Soviet-era productions of Dostoyevsky they had on. You can see things that normally you would have to go to a film festival to see. And the Barbican has an amazing music programme as well. I love classical music, and the London Symphony Orchestra is based there. If you book ahead, you can get a ticket for ten pounds or so. I also saw an amazing concert by one of my favourite musicians there, Caetano Veloso, a Brazilian artist.

I also love the fact that now they’ve opened The Curve, an exhibition space, which often has free installations. You can see really cool stuff there, often contemporary art-oriented. A while ago they showed work by a photographer who had used a very high-grade camera to photograph refugee centres, which was both amazing and unsettling. The Barbican also has a nice art bookshop and a more general shop, as well as a lush tropical conservatory.

And more importantly, there is the space outside, which is just incredible – it’s a kind of garden, with a big pond and fountains, where people gather and enjoy just being in that place. Because it’s insulated from the City outside by the complex’ apartments, it gives you a strong sense of community. It’s like a small paradise. Everywhere around is super busy, but then you enter and you feel like you’ve stepped into a different, more tranquil world. There are also so many brick corridors to roam through, like a maze full of secret passages. And as you go around you keep getting different views of the place and find something you had no idea was there.

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It’s a place that I always take my friends and family to when they visit me in London. They always come with a wish list, and the Barbican is never on it. But I always bring them, and though at first, they can’t imagine why an apartment complex would be that great, when they enter it takes them right in. I like to think that even after they leave, they can easily close their eyes and recall the calm community within the Barbican’s bubble.

We hope you enjoyed this conversation with Ana about the Barbican Centre. What’s your favourite place in London? Why does it mean so much to you? Tell us in the comments.

Visit the Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

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