Londoners remain fairly divided about the architectural value of this vast brutalist complex built after WWII, but the Barbican remains the City's pre-eminent cultural centre, with the main Barbican Hall, two theatres, a state-of-the-art cinema complex and two well-regarded art galleries: the 3rd-floor Barbican Art Gallery and the Curve on the ground floor. There's also a large conservatory, filled with tropical plants.
Built on a huge bomb site abandoned since WWII and opened progressively between 1969 and 1982, the vast housing and cultural complex is named after a Roman fortification built to protect ancient Londinium, the city-wall remains of which can still be seen in the southeast section of the estate. It incorporates John Milton's parish church, St Giles' Cripplegate, into its avant-garde (for the time) design and embellishes its public areas with lakes and ponds ringed with benches. Apartments in the three high-rise towers that surround the cultural centre are some of the city’s most sought-after living spaces. Guided architectural tours are the best way to make sense of the purpose and beauty of the estate (check the website for dates).
Getting around the Barbican can be frustratingly difficult. There are stairs from Barbican tube station that take you up onto the elevated walkways where a yellow line on the floor guides you to the arts complex. More straightforward is to walk through the Beech St road tunnel to the Silk St entrance.