In London, England, the Barbican Centre is a world-class arts and learning organization, pushing the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts.
The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, The Pit, Cinemas 1, 2 and 3, Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, public spaces, a library, the Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory, conference facilities and three restaurants.Each year, over a million people attend Barbican Centre events performed by hundreds of artists from across the globe. The Barbican is currently rolling out a new creative vision which will be the driving force for a more inclusive, diverse, and accessible arts and education centre, where everyone feels they belong.
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London.
The Barbican Centre is a key part of Culture Mile, the City of London’s cultural district, stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate. Led by the City of London Corporation, with the Barbican Centre, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London, the five partners are together creating a vibrant, creative area in the north-west corner of the Square Mile.
On April 28, 2022, a collaborative design team led by architects Allies and Morrison and Asif Khan Studio, has been selected to deliver a multi-million-pound renewal of the Barbican Centre.
The project will preserve the iconic building’s original architectural vision, provide new opportunities for the Barbican’s diverse community of artists, audiences, and partners, and boost the building’s accessibility and environmental performance.
The selected design team was drawn from an impressive pool of high-caliber submissions from talented UK and international design-led bids. The winning team, chosen from a five-team shortlist, also includes engineering and sustainability consultancy, Buro Happold; heritage experts from Alan Baxter Ltd; theatre, acoustic, and digital consultancy, Charcoalblue; landscape architects, Hood Design Studio, lighting design agency, les éclaireurs, and artistic advisors Isaac Julien and Nadia Fall.
The team has considerable experience in major heritage and cultural projects, and have delivered projects for organisations including Tate Britain, the V&A, Royal Festival Hall, Shakespeare’s Globe, Oakland Museum of California, and more.
Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board, Tom Sleigh, said: “The team showed total commitment to preserving the Barbican Centre building as a much-loved global icon, while ensuring it remains a leading creative centre for generations to come. We’re delighted to have this world-class design team working with us to help deliver our creative vision, while also making major improvements to the Barbican’s environmental performance. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the future of this iconic centre for arts and learning, and strengthen its ability to play a leading role in the recovery of the City, and the capital, from the pandemic.”
Their winning vision has sustainability at its core, with a strong focus on reusing and retrofitting existing spaces to minimize the project’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.
Newly appointed CEO of the Barbican Centre, Claire Spencer, said: “This is a hugely exciting time to join the Barbican Centre and I’m looking forward to working alongside the team led by Allies and Morrison and Asif Khan Studio. Their passion for the building’s architectural heritage, paired with their innovative design credentials, make them our perfect partner. Equity, diversity, and inclusion will be an essential theme underpinning the design process, ensuring our building reflects the creative energy of all London’s communities, with safe, accessible, and welcoming spaces for everyone.”
This approach will make sensitive and sustainable improvements that will retain and respect the Barbican’s Grade II listed architecture, while bringing underused spaces into new creative use.
Commenting on their appointment, Simon Fraser, Partner at Allies and Morrison said: “We are looking forward to working with the Barbican Centre, the City of London Corporation, residents, and Londoners of all communities, to uncover the full potential of a place that so many people love, and to invite and enable new work and audiences for the next forty years.”
He continued, “We are interested in the notion of ‘revealing’, of finding places of untapped potential within and around the walls of the Barbican. Not only will this approach offer substantial savings in embodied carbon, and respects the Centre’s significant heritage value, but it opens a myriad of opportunities for creative, inclusive reinvention. It has been a pleasure assembling and collaborating with a multidisciplinary team that has the lived experience to take on this exciting task. For all of us, this will be the project of a lifetime.”
Asif Khan, Founder and Owner of Asif Khan Studio, added: “My dad first brought me to the Barbican just after it opened to the public in 1982. From those early visits as a two-year-old we would spend countless Sundays enjoying the free programme and public spaces. For him, the lake was a reminder of the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. For me it has always felt like home and has been a constant presence in my life. Who would imagine that exactly forty years later there would be an opportunity to contribute towards its future? Amazing things happen like that in this city.”
He concluded, “This renewal project will care for the things we all love about the place, solving parts which could have been better, but most importantly helping to open up the Barbican to London and Londoners in ways that couldn’t be imagined before. The incredible team we have assembled to bring about this change are embarking on this journey with great excitement and dedication to the vision for the Barbican’s new life.”
All shortlisted bids were assessed by an evaluation panel which included external specialists in equity, diversity and inclusion, and heritage and sustainability, alongside representatives from the City Corporation and members of its Barbican Centre Board, and senior Barbican Centre staff.
The external panelists were:
- Yẹmí Aládérun, architect and development manager, Meridian Water, Co-Founder PARADIGM Network
- Lisa Burger CBE, Former Joint Chief Executive, National Theatre
- Margot Heller OBE, Director, South London Gallery
- Dr Judit Kimpian, architect and environmental design expert
- Dr Neal Shasore, Chief Executive and Head of School, London School of Architecture and Trustee, The Twentieth Century Society
The winning design team’s vision will now be refined and developed, including extensive engagement with the Barbican’s stakeholders.
Multiple design options will be created for the project, which will be deliverable within a construction budget of £50m to £150m. The budget for the project is subject to approval by elected Members of the City Corporation.
The Barbican is home to Resident Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra; Associate Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Associate Ensembles the Academy of Ancient Music and Britten Sinfonia, Associate Producer Serious, and Artistic Partner Create. Our Artistic Associates include Boy Blue, Cheek by Jowl, Deborah Warner, Drum Works and Michael Clark . The Los Angeles Philharmonic are the Barbican’s International Orchestral Partner, the Australian Chamber Orchestra are International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are International Associate Ensemble.
The City Corporation, which is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130 million into culture every year.
All images © Max Colson, courtesy of Barbican Centre.