The city on the podium
The Barbican is perhaps the pinnacle of the mechanics of a new perception of society communicated through the design of council housing in Britain. It grew out of a post-war moment of humanitarian thinking that the ‘human’ should be placed above the ‘machinic’ (the car and the tube). Therefore, architecture and planning should channel development towards this vision of transformation into a better society. This new breed of development, initiated by the New Barbican, succumbed to an aspiration that was equally committed to pedestrianization as to the generous provision for car-ownership. The New Barbican Committee’s campaign for planning permission in 1954 had to be sophisticated and convincing. This image combines section and perspective drawn elaborately by the architects, to illustrate the transition from the traditional flat layout of the city to the segregation of vehicles and pedestrians in the face of the ‘motor-car revolution’. The Barbican was representative of a new, more radical way to achieve segregation, in that it placed all the living functions of a city on a six-meter high ‘podium’ above traffic, garages and servicing. The drawings convey the optimism of the time that the dedication of urban planning to elevate the City onto podia, pilotis and towers would transform it from “a Dickensian duckling into a new Elizabethan Swan.”
The image is a re-edition of a Barbican section and perspective view by the author, 2018.
Keywords: 'human', 'machinic', better society, campaign for planning, convey the optimism of the time, design of council housing, mechanics of a new perception, post-war, round I, to illustrate the transition, vision of transformation