Many of London’s great landmarks are easy to love. The architecture is straightforward, quite obviously attractive, easy to photograph and aesthetically pleasing without question.
The Barbican is a place that my eyes aren’t quite sure what to do with. I find it truly fascinating and it’s one of my favourite spots in London.
I love the great rhinoceros-grey sprawl of concrete and the way its long round legs trudge through the still green ponds. I love the contrast between the brutal straight lines of the buildings and the window boxes overflowing with flowers that tumble over the edges.
At the same time, there’s something quite ugly about it.
I realised, in order to describe how I feel about the Barbican, I need a very specific word. After some searching, I found a term that ticks the box: “Jolie-laide”.
Jolie Laide: a woman whose face is attractive despite having ugly features.
During my semantic search, I came across an article by Stephen Bayley in the Architectural Review, talking about this whole idea of beauty and ugliness. In the article he suggests that “we only enjoy the ephemeral deliciousness of beauty if we have an active concept of ugliness…
“Heaven needs hell.”
I work nearby, so I took a lunchtime stroll recently. Here are some picture taken on my wander.