As work continues on behind the hoardings on our new shop, bringing together two floors of our public spaces, we met with Peter Morris from architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris to learn more about their plans, the challenges designing for the Barbican’s architecture and how it connects with their existing architectural relationship with the Barbican…
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris was responsible for design a major overhaul of the Barbican’s public spaces ten years ago, how does it feel to return to the space for another large-scale project?
In the first place the Barbican is a very significant and much cherished work of architecture and so it’s always a privilege, and responsibility, to be working within it.
As for the Barbican Public Spaces project, that was a really big deal for the practice at the time and so we’re delighted to be asked back to work within the public spaces again for the retail project. It’s not often you get the opportunity to revisit your own work to tune it to changing circumstances.
How will you use the existing architecture and design elements from this earlier foyer project to influence this build?
A driving idea behind the earlier project was that the new facilities we introduced into the public spaces, the bars, cafes, box offices and so on, should be seen as large pieces of furniture carefully placed within the powerful architecture.
To support that idea they shared common detailing and materials – dark metal cladding contrasting with the rough texture of the pick hammered concrete – and we’ve carried this treatment through into the main structural elements of the new shop so that it can be seen to be part of that same family.
We’ve then introduced a new material into the shop front and counters themselves, which refers to the bronze coloured metalwork used throughout the centre – door furniture, stair handrails, push plates etc – in other words the bits of the building which the visitor actually touches.
What are the first steps when it comes to imagining the design such as this?
In this case an early step in the design process was to work out exactly where to put the new shop within the public spaces, bearing in mind the need for it to remain accessible whenever the Centre is open as well as the desire for it to be easily found.
What considerations did you have to make when designing such a major build within the foyer space?
The public spaces are spatially complex, a grid of massive concrete columns interwoven by strong horizontal floors, giving unexpected glimpses from one part of the foyers to another at every turn.
Inserting a new deck within this to create the new shop, while retaining this sense of solid and void, hit and miss, was really important, as was maintaining the existing long views across the foyers through the shop.
What were the challenges of designing a new retail space – both logistical and creative?
To be able to function effectively shops need all sorts of pragmatic things like storage and lots of walls as a backdrop to the display of its wares. In this case we knew that we wanted to keep the shop as visually discreet as possible in order to maintain the relative transparency across the foyers.
This is where having the lower floor came into its own, a natural place to locate taller displays and so allowing the displays in the upper floor to be kept low level and treated more like displays in a museum or gallery.
Read more about AHMM’s projects with the Barbican including our Foyers, Cinemas and Art Gallery on their website.
Find out more about the brand new commissions that will feature in our new retail space in our Design collection.