The walk — led by Jessica Barker-Wren — will explore the bold, modernist vision of the architects Chamberlin, Powell & Bon who created both Golden Lane and the Barbican estates on the north west fringes of Square Mile over three decades.
It will also delve into the contributions of politicians and planners who sought to promote a new kind of inner city living — one which emphatically rejected the anti-urban ideals of the bucolic and suburban Garden City movement.
Before it was devastated by wartime bombing, this area had been dominated by warehouses and industrial premises. From 1952 to 1982, Chamberlin, Powell & Bon single-handedly transformed the City of London’s outer edge into a radical new neighbourhood providing 6,513 dwellings spread over an area totalling 17 hectares.
In their scale and ambition the two estates together rank among the foremost achievements of postwar planning and architecture anywhere in the world.
The walk begins on the Golden Lane Estate which was designed as social housing for the City’s key workers. On this bombed out site, the remains of deep basements were exploited to give an unusually varied three-dimensional feel to the spaces between blocks.
The walk then crosses into the highwalks of the Barbican Estate — the much larger, multi-layered, weighty, imposing and better known neighbour to Golden Lane.
Here the architect’s master plan redrew the existing street pattern and even realigned the London Underground to introduce a new east-west axis complete with generous landscapes specifically designed to persuade middle-class professionals to abandon suburban living for apartments in a concrete mega-structure.
The walk ends outside the Barbican Centre — the international arts complex that lies at the heart of the Barbican Estate, looking across the artificial lake towards the medieval church of St Giles Cripplegate and remnants of the ancient City Wall.
This new tour follows the recent designation of the Golden Lane and Barbican estates as the City’s latest ‘Conservation Area’ in recognition of their architectural importance. While the Barbican still divides opinion, this tour will ask whether the ingenuity and generosity of its landscapes could still serve as a model for future urban housing.
Open City is a charity dedicated to making London and its architecture more open, accessible and equitable.
Open City engages all citizens, particularly from under-represented backgrounds, in architecture and city-making. Our programmes – from the Open House Festival and its international network, to our pioneering education projects – open up buildings, conversations and careers to those normally locked out of them.