Sir Nicholas Kenyon - London Architecture Diary's January 2018 guest editor

Friday 5 January 2018

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© Sheila Rock

This month London Architecture Diary's guest editor is Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of Barbican Centre. Sir Nicholas gives his top tips for winter arts and architecture activities in London...

The square mile of the City of London has something of interest in its every square inch.

Ancient and modern jostle for attention: I have only to walk out of my office at the Barbican to encounter a Roman wall, a medieval church, livery halls, and buildings by Eric Parry, Norman Foster, Richard Rodgers and Terry Farrell. The north-west area of the City around the Museum of London and the Barbican is a unique area for heritage and culture: the City has just celebrated that by launching the area as Culture Mile.

The Barbican was a utopian act of post-war planning: we have been exploring that great tradition with a series of foyer exhibitions curated by Daniela Puga. Flying Trees and Sunken Squares explores the devastated post-war site where weeds regenerated the City while the fierce planning debates about the future raged on. You can experience the present-day Barbican for yourself in the 90-minute walking tour Brutal or Beautiful?at times advertised on our website, featuring both the Centre and the residential Estate.

And there is not much time left now to experience one of our most successful exhibitions ever, Basquiat - Boom for Real on the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose early graffiti works appeared on streets across New York and who has now inspired a whole new young generation of Londoners who have flocked to the show (as well as attracting two graffiti tributes by Banksy).

The making of the City, how we ensure humane spaces for work and living, is one of the big issues of the moment. The Barbican’s programme Architecture on Stage features topical debates on these issues, and the next one on Wednesday 10 January is with architects Adam Caruso and Peter St John. Then on Wednesday 31 January the globally renowned critic Joseph Rykwert gives an evening lecture called The City as Body.

All around London and the UK, brutalist architecture seems to be in the ascendant, written about, valued, and restored. The latest arrival in January, back in action for our colleagues at the Southbank Centre, will be the Hayward Gallery, where the 66 glass pyramid roof lights have been restored so as to let natural lighting into the upper galleries for the first time - the opening show is the first major retrospective of the work of German photographer Andreas Gursky.

The links between the cultural sites of the South Bank and the City, thanks to the Millennium Bridge which has revolutionised access across the Thames, are ever closer. When the new Museum of London at West Smithfield, designed by Stanton Williams, is completed, there is the potential to turn its present site next to the Barbican into a new Centre for Music, on a direct axis up from Tate Modern and St Paul’s, to build a centre of access and engagement for all in great music. We are now working with the inspirational architects Diller, Scofidio & Renfro to develop a concept design; watch this space.

The London Architecture Diary is your essential guide to architecture exhibitions and events taking place across London, brought to you by New London Architecture.

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