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Barbican. Urban Poetry

Joe Gilbert

Take a walk in an enchanted concrete oasis in the heart of the city.


In Joe Gilbert's documentary "Barbican", an overview of black-and-white still-life scenes, like a spectacular gifs gallery, portrays the architectural spaces of the Barbican Estate (London) from every possible inside perspective and at every possible moment of the day, but without any people in sight. The community that lives there is introduced directly by the Barbican residents through some interviews that are included as voice-overs in the short film. Gilbert's work shows how the inhabitants of the estate perceive this architecture not only as a beautiful place to live in, but also as a utopian project, and the unique occasion to be part of something completely new and different.

Probably England's finest example of Brutalist architecture, the Estate was part of an ideal vision of urban renewal and transformation of the city center after the Second World War. Designed by architects Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell and Christoph Bon and built during the 1960s and the 1970s, the massive concrete megastructure of the residential complex seems a perfect "machine for living", with its private gardens and communal areas.

Gilbert's camera lingers on the more intimate inner spaces of the residential complex, and then shows it from the outside with the overall cityscape of London in the backdrop. The documentary catches a glimpse of how this important post-war landmark is perceived by those who don’t live there. It almost seems to allude to the fact that this Brutalist icon generates a well organized community life on the inside, but on the outside and in the Londoners' imagery it remains a sort of isolated fortress right near the heart of the city.

Authors icon Credits

Architect: Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell, Christoph Bon
Mentioned project: Barbican Estate
Project location: London, United Kingdom

United Kingdom 2015
Duration: 6'24''

Screened at SE10 Film Festival (London, United Kingdom, 2015). Selected for The Monthly Film Festival, the AFFR (Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2015), the Cinetekton Festival Internacional de Cine y Arquitectura (Puebla, Mexico, 2015).