A mere 60 years ago, the land on which the Barbican stands today was a barren abandoned lot that had been flattened during the Blitz. After a long period of review and debate, a project to rejuvenate the area was finally approved, incorporating new homes as well as an arts centre. In its earliest development it was backed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Shakespeare Company, the latter settling down there as its official London home.
Taking 11 years to build, it was opened in 1982 as what was described architecturally as a ‘brutalist ziggurat’ – or what most people would call a ‘concrete pyramid’. Its appearance was controversial, as many considered the Barbican Centre ugly and built in a style that was already old-fashioned by the time it opened. This triggered a beautification process in the 1990s, when statues and decorations were installed to make the area surrounding the grey buildings a little more aesthetically pleasing. Bold signs and painted lines were added in the 2000s to make it easier for patrons to find their way round.
Although the RSC departed from the venue as their home in 2002 after 20 years, this made way for all-year-round international productions, which had previously just had 6-month seasons. The whole Barbican Centre also underwent a £35 million redesign in 2007 to celebrate its 25thanniversary, making it more accessible and modern.