One day in the distant future when the kids have grown up and ‘er indoors and I retire, we have decided we will move to the Barbican in London EC1. Grade II listed in 2001, the complex is one of London’s principal examples of concrete Brutalist architecture and considered a landmark. We both love it, although I think if we sell our house we might just be able to afford one of the studios there. Looks like the kids will have to fend for themselves.
Right next to the Barbican is the Golden Lane Estate a 1950s council housing complex in the City of London built in an area devastated by bombing during World War II.
The competition for designs was announced in 1951, and at a time when post WW II recovery was still slow, the opportunity to design such an estate attracted a lot of interest among architects. The competition and entries to it were covered in the architectural and popular press. Golden Lane Estate is important as the first work of the partnership formed when Geoffry Powell won the competition to build the estate on 26 February 1952. The three partners-to-be of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (who later designed the Barbican) were all lecturers in architecture Kingston School of Art and had entered into an agreement that if any one of them won, they would share the commission. The estate included leisure facilities, including the recently restored Grade II listed swimming pool.
I have been visiting the Barbican for years and had never even heard of the pool. I am so pleased that I made the effort to go and find it. Golden Lane Fitness is not only a delightful pool to enjoy a few turns, but the staff are excellent, and the surroundings and view through the glass paneled walls make it worth every single penny. Although amazingly this time it didn’t cost me a bean. Arriving straight from a thoroughly tedious meeting, soaking wet having been caught in a sudden down pour, I arrived at the leisure centre without any cash. To top it off the centre’s card machine didn’t work. No matter said the incredibly welcoming chap behind the desk: “Why don’t you just pay me next time you visit?” Really? This is unprecedented. I think you get so used to people being shitty about things – by you not having the right change, no padlock, etc etc – that when someone is pleasant it is a bit strange. Not only that, when I point out that I didn’t have any change for the locker, he lends me a quid. Brilliant.
The Grade II Listed pool is located at the heart of the celebrated Estate. The ‘L’ shaped Centre is wrapped around a quadrangle and is the conglomeration of two formerly separated buildings; the two storey swimming pool and badminton court and the single storey club rooms. A key aim of the recent refurbishment was to provide a wide range of fitness options for residents and visitors, encouraging greater use of the leisure centre, generating greater income and modernising it to a standard that allows it to serve the community for years to come.
To achieve this, refurbishment has also included the badminton court and changing rooms, added a new gym and dance studio and created a new, fully accessible, reception area and circulation routes. It really works
Occasionally it is used as a venue for other activities. A couple of years ago the pool was used by Sky+HD for a special screening of the film Titanic
People turned up in Victorian costume and sat through the film in rowing boats for the screening. It transformed the Golden Lane swimming pool in London back to the high seas of 1912. Incredible.
Anyway, get yourself down there if you get the opportunity. It really is a wonderful pool. I am going to go again today, if nothing more than to repay my debt to the chap on reception.