Why is thebarbican the way it is? Intro: ANT as anapproach In my thesis, Ishall be exploring how Actor Network Theory has played a part and how it hasbeen utilised within the architectural design and master planning on my chosencase study. I shall also be exploring the thinking behind the architects’ work,how and if the situations at the time influenced the sites production and howit is perceived to current date. The initial designs and their sole purposes, andhow these were amended for its use; reasoning behind how the site is how it is,how the architects came to the final proposal, and gaining an understanding onhow the building works as well as how it has adapted to social and politicalimplications since completion. The core focusof my text is how Actor Network Theory has been utilised on a specific casestudy, understanding the thinking behind the theory, its intentions, how it isutilised and how it relates to my chosen site. Unpicking the methodology bycomparing it and relating it to the case study, as well as relative work byeither the same, or different architects to gain a much broader understandingof how the working of the building(s) is constantly adapting to its usersdaily. ANT (short for ActorNetwork Theory) is a “theoretical and methodological approach to social theorywhere everything in the social and natural worlds exists” – however it is constantly shifting thenetworks to form many more relationships, where it is stated that “nothingexists outside of those relationships”.
Humans are the main drive for the Actor Network Theory; where it isoften seen that ideas, processes, and other natural factors contribute to theimportance of the theory. However, social factors are often overlooked, wherethey are only accounted for once they describe the activity rather than explainingit. Using this theory, I aim to dissect my chosen case study and understand howANT is integrated within. Exploring how the networks have been assembled over aperiod, the outcome they hoped to achieve, their sole objective in mind duringthe proposal stages of the design, and whether this has been achieved ormaintained since construction. Chamberlin,Powell and Bon, the three architects who designed their most famous project,’The Barbican’ formed their practice shortly after Powell’s wining of anarchitectural competition. Prior to this, the three worked at KingstonPolytechnic, formally known as Kingston University. While here, they eachindividually entered a competition to have their own individual proposeddesigns used by The City of London in their council house development, known asthe ‘Golden Lane Estate’. They each made an agreement with each other, that ifany one of them was to win the competition, that they would then together, forma partnership and deliver the project as a triad.
Due to Powell’s winning,Chamberlin, Powell and Bon established their own practice in 1952, where fromhere they had their first project as a firm the ‘Golden Lane Estate’.The ‘Golden LaneEstate’ one of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s first projects as a practice,completed and opened in 1957, was initially a design proposal for a competitionheld by the City of London, as mentioned previously. The sole purpose of theproduction of the site was due to the aftermath of the Second World War –London took a huge hit, leaving many places demolished by the blitz, killingthousands and making many homeless – the design brief was to create manycouncil houses to home those who previously lost their homes in the Blitz, orto home those than helped serve London in the War. Previously, thearea that the site is located on use to be home of many small industries, suchas metal working and due to the time that they were in production, many ofthese buildings contained small war bunkers, which were dug up during the constructionof the estate remain exterior landscaping features; creating a contrast betweenthe past and present within the site once constructed, with around 60% of thesites footprint being landscaping, and the detailing of green living roofs ofsome of the buildings, this meant from a birds eye perspective, the footprintof the site was much smaller than from eye level; with the site containing oneof the record breaking heights in the city of London for a living complex (over50m in height).The design ofthe estate was not like many others at that time, (1950s) due to its focus of beinghome to many studio, or one bedroom flats, instead of the common two or threebedroom flats. The site contains a totalof 554 units, however 359 of those consist of being studio or singular beddingflats, the rest being a mix of double and triple.
– this gave the view of theconstruction a whole different aspect as to whythey designed the site to home so many singular living spaces, not to mentionthe bright primary colours that Chamberlin, Powell and Bon used on the exteriorfaçade which they took inspiration from Le Corbusier’s ‘Unité d’habitation’,however, they used his work as a precedence in more than one way other than thecolours, but the layouts and variety of flats contained. The site in awhole after construction was viewed as a ‘post-war recovery’ due to its publicity,not only did it give a positive insight of the possibilities of social housingand urban living, but it became a precedence and a push for their designs fortheir next big project just around the corner from Golden Lane Estate, formallyknown as The Barbican. Establishingtheir practice in 1952, during the first half of the architectural shiftbetween Art Deco and Post-modernism came along Brutalism, which meant there wasvarious controversial comments left on such work. Brutalism was mainly a use oflarge amounts of concrete, which was often left exposed featuring the ‘core’ ofthe high-rise structures outside of the building, or the connecting walkwaysalong the façade. Whereas Art Deco and Post-modernism had a much richer feel interms of detailing and appearance, which left the public often referring toBrutalist architecture as “messy” or “too industrial looking” – which in hindsightis understandable due to the other forms of art that were around at that time. The1950s is was a popular time in history for its fashion and ‘flareness’ which verymuch so complements the Art Deco and Post-modern designs, leaving brutalism asalmost an outsider in terms of appearance. Due to this transition, the stylethat was chosen for the Golden Lane Estate, by Donald McMorran (who was also amember of the London team who designed conservative style housing for the corporationof London) was a strong contrast to his usual structures, which initially givesus the question why was the heavybrutalist design chosen to be placed just east of the Centre of London, whatwas the back idea behind the design? How did Chamberlin, Powell and Bon conveytheir design to the corporation for them to choose that design over a much lessdense looking project. The triad completed many memorable projects during theirtime working together in the 1950s through to the 1960s, such as a campus forthe Univeristy of Leeds, and the known Bousfield school in Chelsea, London.
During the firststages of construction for the Golden Lane estate, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon gotpersonally asked by the corporation of the City of London to submit designs fora site just around the corner from Golden Lane, now known as The Barbican. The site,formally known as the Barbican Estate, was also home to many small industries,and was known within the capital as being the area within London for the ‘ragtrade’, however the over 40-acre site got virtually wiped out during the WorldWar Two Blitz, killing thousands of people and destroying the existingbuildings on site, only leaving partial remains of the famous London Wall,which was utilised by fighters and for the use of protecting the city against attacks.The barbicansite, as mentioned before was widely known for its production of small trades,commonly being home to metal and leather trades. Prior to these industrialworking sites, the area’s history dates back thousands of years. In the years90 and 120 AD Londinium, which is now known as London, was home to the Romanproduction of the great fort, as well as the production of a bridge connectingthe north and south sides of the city together, forming a major port forcommercial use and trading – these still stand today, however remains of themare located on the corner of Aldersgate street. The site was also home for the NormansBase, known as ‘The Base Court’, where here it Background of the London site- Info about the site – background info,meaning, use purpose, Initial plans by other architects for the site to barbicaninitial plans to the final approved. The cities idea on the plans The Barbican estate famously containssome of the initial designs the practice incorporated in the golden laneestate: small living spaces, often meant the kitchen and living spaces werecombined, and various split levels within a maisonette to differentiate the manyliving spaces. They also featured some of their own thought processes such asraising the living spaces up on ‘stilts’ or ‘podiums’ to allow the residents orvisitors of the centre to roam around the site on foot to explore the grounds.
Influences for the barbican, golden lane estate, otherinfluences – le corb, the purpose of the site, what influenced its design to behow it is.