Officially opened to the public by Queen Elizabeth II on 3rd March 1982, the Barbican Centre is a performing arts centre in the Barbican Estate of the City of London and the largest of its kind in Europe. The Centre hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also houses a library, three restaurants, and a conservatory. The Barbican Centre is member of the Global Cultural Districts Network.
The London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are based in the Centre's Concert Hall. In 2013, it once again became the London-based venue of the Royal Shakespeare Company following the company's departure in 2001.
Owned, funded, and managed by the City of London Corporation – the third-largest arts funder in the United Kingdom – it was built as The City's gift to the nation at a cost of £161 million (equivalent to half a billion these days).
It had a long development period, only opening long after the surrounding Barbican Estate housing complex had been built. It is situated in an area which was badly bombed during World War II.
Designed by Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell and Christoph Bon of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in the Brutalist style, it has a complex multi-level layout with numerous entrances. Lines painted on the ground help would-be audience members avoid getting lost on the walkways of the Barbican Housing Estate on the way to the centre. The Barbican Centre's design – a concrete ziggurat – has always been controversial and divides opinion. It was voted "London's ugliest building" in a Grey London poll in September 2003.
In September 2001, arts minister Tessa Blackstone announced that the Barbican Centre complex was to be a Grade II listed building. It has been designated a site of special architectural interest for its scale, its cohesion and the ambition of the project.
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