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BARBICAN LIFE


Afterthoughts


2084. Kevin Kiernan paints an imaginative picture of an architect and designer frequented Barbican-yet-to-come as a gated Utopia of ‘conformative’ living.


Kevin Kiernan G


iven that the Barbican Estate and I were both conceived in the early Fifties, I feel that we are growing up together -


although my lease is unlikely to be 125 years upwards. Indeed, as the Bard would have it, my ‘lease has all too short a date’. Well, compared with concrete anyway. If I haven’t already convinced you of the spooky similarity between the Estate and me, can I remind you that the construction of the Estate in the 60s was beset with strikes etc., which were rather reminiscent of my rebellious teenage years. Moreover the rather raw, newly opened Estate in the early seventies exemplifying brutalism at its finest, corresponded exactly with my punk years. As time has gone by and more window boxes have been filled in with seemingly compulsory geraniums, the estate has mellowed, just as my clothes have changed from punk to Man at C&A. It’s amazing what a window box or two will do to enhance a visual appearance: just imagine how the National Theatre frontage would be improved with a few gladioli. It makes me wonder whether, as I promenade around the podium, I ought to sport a tray of geraniums rather like the trays the cinema usherettes carry when they are selling their Magnums and Kia- 0ras. More of a statement than a mere buttonhole, methinks.


In later years the influx of architects and designers, making their home in the Barbican, has given concrete a respectability among the chattering classes. No more do I get the ‘sucking the lemon’ look when I mention that I live in the Barbican to my Islington friends in their Archway and Holloway Road villas. Just like an olive, your first taste of one is negative but, as time goes by, you gradually


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realise you like them after all. Indeed, just like the Barbican, perhaps even my crumbling visage will be reassessed- vintage rather than veteran, clapped in rather than clapped out. All in all an encouraging outlook!


But is there a cloud on the horizon? Grade 2 listing – (which always struck me as the ideal description for my degree of wobble whenever I sink a few bevvies – Grade 1 being completely horizontal) has bought a few issues. Donned in Man at C&A apparel, I find that my role as Man at B&Q is severely restricted. Necessary alterations such as the Napoleon Lions, Lamps, Wishing Wells, once respected, are frowned upon! Pebble Dashing and Stone Cladding, once the hallmark of every proud house owner, are not allowed. The Barbican is strangely bereft of those individual features that can distinguish a house. Just imagine how useful it would be for giving directions, if your house had a plastic shark sticking out of the roof. What of the future? Will things carry on much as now or will matters develop? Having successfully repelled the J P Morgan development, are there other threats closer to home? Let us imagine.


It’s 2084 AD, the Barbican now increasingly occupied by architects and designers. All modifications to the original design have been banned. Indeed the Estate has been restored to its original factory settings. Garcheys have been compulsorily retrofitted. The church, once St Giles, now Saints Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the original Barbican architects, is an internal shrine to good aesthetic taste. The outside has been remodelled to resemble Milton Court, a tribute to Corbusier’s style. A Lego model of the original church is now on display in the Museum of London. Buttons


can be pressed to hear a sermon and sing along with a hymn.


Conscious that not everyone wants to ‘come home to a real fire’ as the TV adverts used to say, rioters are discouraged. The City Gates have been restored. Only residents and those who know the difference between a hedge fund and a hedge are admitted. Residents who forget to tap in or tap out become the dispossessed and enjoy all the amenities that Hackney can offer.


The Guildhall


School of Music has expanded to house the Deng Xiaoping Accommodation wings for students from the Far East. Speed and Willoughby are no more, flattened. Likewise the Museum of London has had to expand; after all there is even more history to cover. Thomas More and Mountjoy, similarly, are remembered merely as plaques, but tasteful ones.


Crossrail has finally opened, its progress slowed down by the Nineteenth Dip Recession. It’s a limited offering now – a once-daily shuttle service between Barbican and Farringdon. The link to Moorgate was hampered when Shakespeare Tower sank one day into the tunnel, making the now ground floor Penthouse Flat the only visible sign of this once mighty block. The Barbican skyline now looks a little gap-toothed. All within this square mile gated 2084 Utopia is happiness, except perhaps there are one or two renegades, who still secretly dream of an MFI kitchen and a bathroom with avocado coloured fittings. But hark, the bells of Sts Chamberlin, Powell and Bon ring out for a gathering of the clan. Strains of a hymn based on the 60’s hit song ‘Concrete and Clay’ are heard. The service is rounded off with another 60s favourite – the Barbican has come of age - the Age of Aquarius.


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