City bosses eye funding for new restaurant space and safety improvements 

The Barbican, seen from the west

Source: Michael Gwyther-Jones / Flickr

The Barbican, seen from the west

A £10.1m package of upgrade work to the Barbican Arts Centre that will include a new restaurant, kitchen and event space is poised to be part of the City of London’s capital budget for the next financial year.

Urgent repairs to address health-and-safety concerns at the grade II-listed arts complex, completed in 1982, make up the lion’s share of funding identified in the plans, which are progressing through the City’s budget-setting process.

In addition to the repair work the proposals, as detailed by a report to the Barbican Centre board, also include £2.8m of work to redevelop the Barbican Centre’s kitchens, restaurants and events space to “provide a new restaurant, event space and improved kitchen facilities”.

The report said the figure included funding for design work, construction and adaptation of catering block facilities that would “improve the quality of our customer experience, reduce costs and improve income lines”.

A total of £7m was identified for health and safety-related repair work, of which £5m is earmarked for the Barbican Exhibition Halls and £2m for areas designated as “confined and dangerous spaces”, such as those off limits to the public where maintenance work is carried out.

The Barbican, with the south side of the arts centre to the right.

Source: Loz Pycock / Flickr

The Barbican, with the south side of the arts centre to the right.

The report said the “poor and aged condition of the building fabric” of the Exhibition Halls was “a health and safety risk and a corporate reputation risk”, adding that M&E work along with other building services installations would be part of the package.

Building Design understands that non-public appendices to the report related to the “dangerous and confined spaces” upgrade say the fact that the centre’s 1971-1982 construction pre-dated many existing health and safety regulations mean it is currently “extremely unsafe” to maintain.

The appendix said there was a “genuine danger of serious injury or death because of falling from height, suffocation or not being able to rescue a casualty due to poor access”. It added that as well as the 54 shafts in the Barbican there were “many more risers, plant rooms, tank rooms, to be addressed”.

The Barbican Arts Centre's Silk Street entrance

Source: Jason Paris / Flickr

The Barbican Arts Centre’s Silk Street entrance

The remaining £300,000 of the £10.1m package relates to the need for a new art gallery chiller to keep artworks on loan to the Barbican at optimum temperature and offset the likelihood of “very large claims from lenders” if they are damaged.

The package of upgrade work was progressed to the City of London’s projects sub (policy and resources) committee last month and sign-off on the proposals will ultimately be required by City chiefs in March for a finalised funding bid to go before the relevant committees.

Building Design asked the City whether it expected to launch a tender for the works when funding was approved, or whether design and refurbishment specialists would be appointed from an existing framework. A spokesperson would only say: “Any work would be allocated in line with the City’s procurement guidelines.”

Designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in 1968, the Barbican Centre was the last element of the Barbican to be completed. It was granted grade II-listed status in 2001.