The Barbican is Quite Brutal

Come see how this fluff master link up the very much undersold architectural style of Brutalism with her new found life, jobless and homeless. A very fun, brutal read.

How are you since the last time we spoke?

So much has happened on my end. So much. The Drama Queen talking again, I know.

Just imagine an exhausted, dishevelled me (but glam anyhow) stretched out on a rococo chaise longue; Bellini in one hand, elegant cigarette holder in another blowing side-streamed smoke of what looks like…let me think, ah First World Problem. Wouldn’t you just want to give me a slap? I would give me a slap.

But no, I’m not lounging on a rococo chaise longue. I am sitting on a very unsexy wooden chair that has a red padding stained of a student’s exasperation trying to meet dissertation deadline and exhilaration of a pensioner, scrutinising every single painting in a Lee Krasner’s book. I am in a cold, stark, hideous, heavy concrete Brutalist block pressed in the City of London – or what they call the Barbican Centre. 

I’m really not a fan of the Brutalist.

Nonetheless, there are a plethora of books around me. Books that smell like photography, travel, design, fashion and film. There are also two Yamaha pianos at the corner of the other side of the room and an impressive archive of music sheets, ranging from classical to contemporary, for any kind of instrument you could ever think of. How amazing is that?

Still not a fan of the Brutalist.

In case you’re wondering what exactly is Brutalist. Well darling, let me educate you.

This very unpolished, unassuming, unrefined, grey-beige, clunky and clumsy architectural style of the Barbican Centre, it is a style. The style is called Brutalism.

Last week, I handed my rented apartment back to the landlord (who else?). And I left my job.

Leaving a job that might actually pay for a rococo chaise longue, from a company that is the Mecca to a gazillion of gamers (I was a lawyer at a gaming company. They are biiiig.) was not easy. But I grew up being taught that I should be brave. So, I am brave. I let go of something which I saw no future in, something that has made me deeply unhappy, whilst allowing another more suitable candidate to take that place and spread his/her wings. 

When Chamberlin, Powell and Bon designed the Barbican Centre, they knew it wasn’t about the look (either that, or they have a very unorthodox understanding of beauty…) The design wasn’t very well received. In fact, it was voted the Ugliest Building in London (wouldn’t have if something like the Scottish Parliament was here).

People were harsh. But none of that demoralising, doubtful voices drowned out or overshadowed the functionality and the purpose of the architecture, not one single bit.

At this point, I’d have to admit that after doing some reading about the Brutalist, I am intrigued. Rough and brute as it may be, it’s opened my eyes.

It is a very much undersold and respectable architectural style that focuses on substance. The materials used to build the buildings, the sandblasted walls, the solid steel, the massive pour of raw concrete to take away space and to create space. It’s a very practical, no-nonsense belief, seeing that the style had only gained ground post-WWII, in an economically depressed society, where people had no choice but to be frugal and practical. The Brutalist has weight and stands tall. It doesn’t matter whether the shapes are well liked or not. 

At this point, you must be thinking, you have neither looks nor substance and I still don’t like you. Fine. But at least let me tell you about the Barbican Centre. Read on.

It is the biggest performing art centre in Europe, funded by the City of London Corporation. They are huge in the art scene in the UK. In other words, they have a lot of money sitting in their bank to fund arts. A lot of money. It is also where the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are based. The Barbican Centre houses some of the best resources and has delivered some of the most stunning performances I have ever seen. This April, the jet-lagged me sat through Khatia Buniatishvili’s solo piano performance with my best friend, sharing a very touching and inspiring moment together. Amazing, because jet-lag and solo piano performance usually don’t go very well together. Last year, I saw the Gewandhausorchester from Leipzig (don’t make me say their name) conducted by 90-year-old Blomstedt without a score. I’m sorry Alberto, grand as you may be, it’s the Barbs that swept me off the floor.

So, okay. Hideous aesthetics aside, this building does evoke some admiration. 

Last week, when I packed 8-year worth of belongings into boxes and saw them being picked up and sent to the storage by these two Romanian men, it was a little unsettling (seeing my stuff being taken away, not knowing how I’d be able to live with less was unsettling, not because of the two Romanian men). I was suffocated by the obscene amount of stuff I had collected over the years. Stuff that had either come with its own sentiment or was later coated with sentiment like the amount of dust sat atop. Each of them, made up of 30% nostalgia and 70% should-haves, would-haves, could-haves – why did I buy this, why am I still keeping this. Looking at them, I realised, at a point in time I was trying to be someone else I’m not. At a point in time, I shared some really special moment with someone (a few ones, ahem) who are now the most familiar strangers I know. Stuff that had outgrown me for a long time; stuff that hadn’t been used for an even longer time. All that crap, I didn’t want to let go of. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, you hoarder. Maybe it’s time you Marie-Kondo all your crap too.)

But I did, I let them go. I spring cleaned and threw away the stuff that took up almost half of my flat. So, if my 2-bed flat previously looked like a warehouse, my next flat must look like a monastery. And FYI, Kim and Kanye’s house, as seen on Vogue, also looks like a monastery. So my next place would be quite Vogue.

Now I’m living out of two suitcases, one big bag of toiletries and nine pair of shoes. All necessities, no vanity. Sure. And surprisingly, I am not worried. Or should I be? Why should I be? I am surprisingly not.

To let go of what wasn’t right and to have all my treasured possessions neatly folded and stuffed into two battered Samsonites is more powerful than I imagined. I have substance. And that substance is within me.

Very much a Brutalist you see. And how good am I in connecting irrelevant things?

Anyhow, I think I’ve told you enough today, maybe more than what’s necessary.

Regardless of what happens, I am excited and am genuinely so, so looking forward to this crazy adventure that I’m about to embark on. To a place where I could spread my wings as an IP lawyer working for sexy clients, and doing lots and lots and lots of writing. Possibly transitioning from a blogger to a published author? What say you? Would you buy my book?

Once upon a time, a man called Johnnie Walker told me to “Keep Walking”.

So I will, and you shall follow. All of you.

What do you think those 9 pair of shoes are for?


^ Unsexy sandwich with a sexy view. This picture was taken with iPhone so the hue is slightly different. Don’t be so pedantic.


With love x

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