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The Barbican Centre in London. Scott Wylie/Flickr.
The Barbican Centre in London. Scott Wylie/Flickr.

London’s Barbican to Receive $208 Million Makeover

Citing a “pressing need to make changes to the Barbican building so that it continues to meet the needs of twenty-first century artists, audiences and communities,” the City of London has launched a call for proposals for the redesign of the Barbican Centre. The planned refurbishment of the Brutalist structure housing the multidisciplinary arts hub is part of the city’s plan to transform itself into an international cultural destination and will respond to the changes over the past forty years in the practice and exhibiting of art.

The Barbican campus, which was designed by Chamberlin, Powell, & Bon in 1982, features a three-screen cinema, galleries, conference halls, restaurants, a public library, and several performing arts venues including Barbican Hall, home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. Among the changes sought in the revamp of the structure are the sharp reduction of its carbon footprint and an increase in accessibility, presently made difficult by the concrete walkways flanking the building. Entities submitting design proposals are also expected to include plans for the upgrade of the Barbican’s venues, and for the transformation of underused areas into flexible spaces. The Barbican additionally hopes to embed digital technology throughout the building to allow it to connect with a global audience.

The new initiative, which could cost up to $208 million, comes just seven months after the city scrapped plans for a new $400 million concert hall touted as the “Tate Modern of classical music” owing to Covid-19-related budget woes. It also follows a major Barbican staff shakeup a month ago that ultimately saw the departure of Sir Nicholas Kenyon CBE, who had led the prestigious performing arts venue since 2007. The change in leadership came in the wake of the publication of the damning Barbican Stories, which limned anonymous accounts of racism and discrimination at the institution.