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Design, the Barbican and the housing crisis

Phineas Harper, formerly with The Architectural Review and now with the Architecture Foundation, has made a great little film about the Barbican under the auspices of both.

Phineas Harper, formerly with The Architectural Review and now with the Architecture Foundation, has made a great little film about the Barbican under the auspices of both. Sat at the centre of London, it is a place that I know and love (although I have never been fortunate enough to be invited inside any of the flats). But this was a real eye opener. Phin really looks at the buildings, and explains a lot of the references and their genesis. Have you ever found the Barbican hard to get into? Well, not surprising, it was intended to be that way, to prevent too much through traffic disturbing the residents. In effect, it was an early example of a gated community – but without the gates.

He celebrates the place but also tells us about the very different circumstances under which it was built – when living in the city centre was still seen as unattractive and when, which is a real eye opener, there was a belief that providing council housing  not just for the less well-off but for the middle classes was the right thing to do.

It is particularly cheering to hear these arguments put so cogently by somebody who is relatively young. The surviving architects from the days of publicly funded housing argue cogently about what we have lost, but one their arguments may be tinged with nostalgia of special pleading. Phin’s film on the other hand, makes them marvellously fresh. It is well worth the five minutes it takes to watch.

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