27 September 2013

concrete jungle

Welcome to the concrete jungle. I finally managed to get some down-time over the weekend and decided to go for a little explore with my good friend Double-A Fabulous [he's been featured here before, when we went exploring around Brick Lane]. After a delicious brunch in Clerkenwell [a dedicated feature on this one is on its way, it was that good!] we decided to wander our way to Liverpool Street. I find this part of London really interesting for architecture, you can find anything from townhouses to tower blocks to flash modern glass buildings all on one street. Although a lot of the buildings are offices and businesses, there is a definite progression of distinct styles which has built up over the years. One of these is the Barbican Estates and Complex, built in the 1960s-70s.

I've always felt very lucky growing up in a house of music-lovers, which on various occasions has brought me to the Barbican hall to watch some amazing artists. The Barbican also hosts various exhibitions throughout the year and is generally known as a bit of an arts-&-culture-hub in the city. Whatever you've come to the Barbican for though, there was always an elephant in the room which stirred conversation (and sometimes controversy): the concrete. There is lots of it, inside, outside, everywhere, you can't escape it. Some people love it, others hate it. Growing up, I'd always thought "ew concrete - so unattractive". My parents never seemed to be big fans either and to be honest surely there were way prettier materials that could have been used, no?

Now grown, and as a result of this particular explore, I saw the Barbican in a completely new light. Walking past, I suddenly realised that it was actually beautiful. Maybe it was the blue sky weather or the fact that I'd just come from the tastiest brunch. Whatever it was, the concrete just looked GOOD. It wasn't as hostile or as cold and grey as I'd previously perceived. Architecturally, I really like the clean lines, the symmetry and how the weathered concrete gives the building a sense of "I've been through it all" maturity. Most of all, I love the amount of foliage and green spilling over the sides of the balconies as if a jungle is fighting back against the concrete. Not only does it soften the concrete, but for me it captures how nature will always be able to intertwine with even the harshest structures. This is starting to sound like the dreamer in me [I'll stop!] but after closer inspection I have completely changed my opinion of these buildings. [Shock]. My fascination has grown so much that I am even contemplating attending one of their Architecture Tours. Love or hate it, these buildings are pretty impressive and hopefully I've managed to capture a smidgen of my newly found admiration.

The relationship between (city) buildings and people also fascinates me. Particularly here because the buildings are primarily functional - they are either for working and living in. Yes, there is the odd interesting building like the Barbican Complex and the perspex-like building above where design may have been prioritised but generally most of the buildings here seem to be built to either house us or our workplaces. The way we interact with this is therefore interesting because it almost acts as a blank canvas backdrop for passers by. From Londoners to tourists, we all try to make it our own. We can blend amongst the commuters, or we can stand out. Adrian and I watched a group of hip hop dancers filming in between the main office buildings near Liverpool Street for a while and it made me feel like we really can make this city whatever we want it to be.

wearing | batik print top (present from mum) & trench coat (Topshop)

photos by me; those of me (1 & 8) by A.A. Fabulous

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