On this day in history : 3rd March 1982 – The opening of the Barbican Centre in London, by Her Majesty the Queen…. It is Western Europe’s largest arts centre ….


‘Barbican’ was the name of one of the streets in a busy commercial part of the Cripplegate ward…. At the end of the 19th Century it was the centre of London’s rag trade – bustling with fabric and leather merchants, furriers, glove makers and milliners….

It was during the Blitz that the area was to become completely destroyed…. On the 29th of December 1940 it was flattened by German bombers….fire swept through the warehouses…. By the end of World War II only a few buildings remained….one of which, although badly damaged, was the Church of St. Giles’ Cripplegate….

After the war plans were made to rebuild the stricken area – The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 gave local authorities the power to buy up large areas of land for redevelopment….


In 1955 the first proposals for the Barbican Centre were submitted to the Corporation of London – the regeneration of five and a half acres of land in Cripplegate…. Four years later a design by architects Chamberlain, Powell & Bon was accepted…. The following year the Royal Shakespeare Company and the London Symphony Orchestra became involved in the planning as the centre was to become their new home….

Construction began in 1971 – with a proposed cost of £17m and an estimated six-year completion time…. It was finally finished in 1982 and had cost £153m to build…. With a concert hall to accommodate 2,000 people, 2 theatres, a cinema, library, conference centre and several galleries it was to become the largest cultural centre for the arts in Western Europe. By its 20th anniversary the Barbican had received more than 27 million visitors. It is a leading venue for classical music – and was home to the Royal Shakespeare Company until May 2001….

On unveiling the commemorative plaque when opening the centre in 1982 the Queen remarked – “What has been created here must be one of the wonders of the modern world”….

In 2003 a survey commissioned by the advertising agency Grey London named the Barbican as London’s ugliest building….


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