The main buildings rise up to seven floors above a podium level, which links all the facilities in the Barbican, providing a pedestrian route above street level.

Barbican Estate - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This building was once voted London’s ugliest building, and is a landmark example of Brutalist architecture. My university campus was built around a similar time in the 70’s and would also be classifed as brutalist’ in architectural style. Walking along the raised walkway today, I could have easily been back at uni; the bricks, exposed concrete, it was almost exactly the same.

If you google future cities’, you usually get the depressing tall spiky blade runner city which stretches on forever, or the happy fresh green floating in the sea kind. Both are way too extreme. I don’t think I’d like to live in a city FLOATING OUT TO SEA or a city that I have to travel 100 floors down, 100 blocks across and then 100 floors up again to visit a friend for dinner. That sounds ridiculous, but try navigating through Tokyo, that’s how it works.

A city, or parts of city modelled on the Barbican complex, ugly as it is, produces something more akin to a university campus. Open air pedestrian walkways, multi-level buildings that circle gardens, plazas or any other sustainable green stuff you might want, and inside, lots of mezzanines and open areas rather than just stacked floors like a skyscraper. In my experience, most universities are extremely walkable. You can walk from the basketball court through a park, library, up to a classroom, past bathrooms and arrive at a cafe in the space of 5 minutes with fairly little stress or wayfinding.

Compare that scenario to any suburb, or any los angeles, and the case for the city as a campus starts to sound like a future city that you’d actually like to live in.


July 4, 2014