Brutalist beauties in Nostalgic London
A chunky, concrete icon – loved or hated by Londoners depending on their feelings about the stark style of brutalist architecture – the Barbican is both a world-class arts centre and a housing estate. Construction started in the 1960s on the terrace and high-rise tower blocks, built around ponds and green spaces, in an area that had been badly bombed during World War II. The Barbican Centre followed later in the 1980s. Nowadays you can visit the Grade II-listed stunner to catch a Royal Shakespeare Company play or a concert, watch a movie or be inspired at an art exhibition. Don’t miss the Barbican Conservatory, a huge glass-roofed and somewhat surreal space filled with trailing greenery, exotic plants and fish.
2) National Theatre
Brutalist architecture dominates the South Bank, thanks to the Southbank Centre and its neighbour the National Theatre. The bold building has divided public opinion since it opened in 1976, but there’s no question it’s one of the best theatres in the world. Make sure you eye the striking concrete waffle ceiling on your way to watch something brilliant in the Olivier auditorium.
3) Southbank Centre
Not sure what you feel like doing? Head to the Southbank Centre. The geometric arts centre is the UK’s biggest, made up of brutalist icon the Royal Festival Hall, contemporary art space the Hayward Gallery and events space Queen Elizabeth Hall – and it can fulfill any arty need. Built in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, it remains a beloved cultural hotspot. You can find free concerts, spoken-word performances, talks, exhibitions and huge festivals, like Meltdown, Women of the World and the London Literature Festival, within its concrete walls. It’s also a prime strolling spot, thanks to its buzzy Thames-side location, great food and book markets, and outdoor spaces, like the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Gardens.
Buy the books
Discover London off the beaten path with The 500 Hidden Secrets of London and explore the city's historic treasures with Nostalgic London.
Already a member? Log in.
New here? Sign up.