Musicians of all ages and genres feature the Barbican in their music videos. Youtuber Phil Gyford’s playlist “The Barbican in Music Videos” compiles songs from artists including British rapper Skepta, UK rock band Coldplay, the infamous electronic musician Moby, and guitarist James Morrison. Even modern pop artist Dua Lipa strut her stuff through the Barbican while singing her song, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah).”
But what makes the Barbican the perfect set for a professional music video? Perhaps artists were attracted to its remarkable Brutalist style. Maybe the architecture was used for it’s historical or political significance.
For the three professors at London’s Kingston School of Art who designed the Barbican, it was a multi-use project of herculean proportions. Located in the heart of London, the Barbican is an art center, music school, restaurants, a pub, cinema, and residential units. A symbol of British post-war architecture, the Barbican was designed to attract middle-class professionals in order to reverse population decline in the inner city; the government's attempt to provide quality housing to all citizens.
In the 1970s, urban living was thought of as dirty and unsafe. Chamberlin, Powell and Bon knew their design would need to appear safe and exclusive to attract middle class professionals. Inside, the Barbican provides its residents with lush landscapes, serene walkways, and cultural amenities. Outside, the Barbican is impenetrable and perplexing. Slit openings and sawtooth rhythms give the complex militaristic qualities, like a medieval fortress. Remnants of London’s old city wall run through the site, one of the many details which make the Barbican an architectural storytelling masterpiece.
In some of the songs featuring the Barbican, artists are upset or confused. You aren’t quite sure where exactly they are within the Barbican because of its disorienting and Brutalist nature. In other songs, the artist is trying to make a statement, similar to the Barbican itself. Explore the playlist to get a better look at the Barbican and decide for yourself what about the architecture attracts so many artists.