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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 15:29 GMT
Barbican may get listed status
Barbican Centre, London
London's Barbican Centre took 30 years to complete
The concrete-clad Barbican Centre, a complex of buildings in the City of London that is notoriously difficult to navigate, could soon be a listed building.

Arts Minister Alan Howarth has announced that there is to be a 12-week public consultation into giving the building a Grade II listing.

"It is clear that in terms of scale, design and architectural integrity The Barbican Centre has achieved outstanding significance," he said.

"However, the centre has also generated considerable controversy - from users of the arts complex, from residents and from professional bodies.

"This consultation will allow the public, including the centre's residents, amenity bodies, architects and other professionals the opportunity to comment on the proposals before I make my decision."

Hatred

The complex has a mixture of private appartments and public buildings such as The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, a school for girls, the Arts Centre and a YMCA, all set around a large courtyard.

The consultation is unlikely to lead to a conclusive decision, since the Barbican is seen as either a miracle of modern design or a concrete hell.

When it opened as the Barbican Arts Centre in March 1982, the Queen described it as "one of the wonders of the modern world".

But the building was criticised in 1989 by Adrian Noble, now the Royal Shakespeare Company director, who said: "The vast majority of RSC people hate the place profoundly."

Improvements

The complex was built between 1963 and 1982 at a cost of 153m (the equivalent of 400-500m today).

Plans for a 6m facelift were unveiled last October.

The foyer and public spaces are being redesigned to create what managing director John Tusa said would be "the best arts centre in Europe".

Work over the next five years should bring new lighting, highlight the internal features and improve the layout.

The idea is to return the centre to its original state rather than to alter it structurally.

Comments on the merits of the Barbican should be sent to Kennedy Humphreys, Buildings, Monuments and Sites Division, Department for Dulture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH by 25 April.

See also:

16 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Barbican gets 6m makeover
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