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Six things that you didn’t know about London’s Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre has been around for more than 35 years and has become well-established as an extremely important performing arts space. Based in the Barbican, a huge post-war concrete development, it is surrounded by famous buildings including the Museum of London, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the City of London School for Girls.

You may well have visited the Barbican to enjoy some of the amazing performance at the Barbican Centre, but there are many things that casual visitors often miss. Here are six things that you might not know about the Barbican centre.

  1. It offers a huge range of venues

Some people think of the Barbican as being a single venue when in actuality it offers a large number of different spaces useful for a range of events. The most famous of the venues are found at the Barbican Centre, and include the Barbican Hall which is the home of the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Barbican Theatre which was designed for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

There is also a 200-capacity theatre named The Pit, seven conference halls of various sizes and a large number of informal performance spaces. This is to go along with a number of restaurants, a cinema, an art gallery and even a public library.

  1. The Barbican Centre is Europe’s largest performing arts venue

The Barbican Centre is an enormous venue then, with a huge of different spaces that can be used for all sorts of activities. But it’s not just its gigantic size that is so impressive. In fact, the Barbican showcases more than 4,000 events every single year – this makes it officially Europe’s largest performing arts venue.

The venue is also home to one of the largest public libraries in London as well as a huge range of other things to do making it extremely well-rounded and popular.

  1. It nearly had a very unique cinema

The Barbican was built by a firm named Chamberlin, Powell and Bon – while this was a well-regarded team of architects, they had never actually attempted to build a performing arts centre before. This led to them having some interesting ideas for how the project should eventually be created, and it resulted in the Barbican almost having an extremely unique cinema.

The initial cinema design called for the screen to be on the ceiling, and visitors would have watched from beds. Ultimately, the Barbican was completed with three large cinema screens, one with a 288 and two with 156 capacity.

  1. It’s fantastic example of Brutalist architecture

The Barbican Centre is a Grade-II listed building, in part due to its power Brutalist architecture. In fact, it is one of the best examples of Brutalism in London. Brutalist architecture a form of the modernist style and emphasises the use of exposed concrete and brickwork, to give a very hard and rugged appearance.

While this is true of the Barbican, it also managed to maintain elegance and stylishness that some examples of the architectural style lack. The building was built using an incredible 130,000 cubic metres of concrete.

  1. It’s home to more than 2,000 tropical plants

You might not be aware that the Barbican Centre – as well as having multiple performance spaces and halls – hosts an enormous conservatory. Available for private hire as well as the opportunity to visit, the conservatory is home to more than 2,000 species of tropical plants, as well as hundreds of species of fish.

Covered over with a glass roof, this is venue is used for weddings and for a range of other functions. There’s a very special feel to the place.

  1. It is home to many firsts

The Barbican can claim a number of firsts. For example, it was this venue that hosted the first ever silent disco in London, and it was held in the aforementioned conservatory. Interestingly, the Barbican also hosted the first major exhibition of Grayson Perry’s work. The artist has gone on to considerable commercial success since.

In 2019, the Barbican remains one of the London’s most important arts centres hosting renowned artists and performances, as well as continuing to invest in new talents. It remains to be seen which future superstars will be enjoyed at the centre this year.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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