In the 1950s, earnest but misguided city fathers turned their attentions toward redeveloping a bombed-out crater. The end result was a haltingly forbidding, mixed-use residential/business concrete complex that took more than 20 years to finish. They optimistically planned for lively crowds by adding Europe’s largest arts and conference center, too, with a concert hall, two theaters, three cinemas, and two galleries, and now they’re the best thing about the place—and one of the best things about London arts in general. You can’t always find something going on in all of its venues, and even when things are rocking full-tilt, the bunkered Barbican is so windswept it makes Blade Runner look like Candy Land, but what does play here is rarely dull. It’s nearly impossible to classify the Barbican’s fare, since it receives a wide range of the world’s great orchestras, singers, and composers, plus a handful of banner festivals each year, particularly in the realm of contemporary music and experimental theater. Its cinemas often screen features fresh from major film festival triumphs, and the long-running Bite festival brings in work from new names and white-hot international producers.
The Barbican Centre
Silk St., EC2
Our Rating Transportation Tube: Barbican Phone 020/7638-8891 Web site The Barbican Centre