Portraits Of The People Who Live In (And Love) Brutalism

A resident of London’s Barbican documents the inhabitants of the iconic project–and their spaces.

From outside, the towers of the Barbican Estate looks positively Ballardian. The Barbican is the best-known example of Brutalism in London, and perhaps the world: a concrete castle-city (whose name literally translates to “fortress” in Latin) that seems to evoke feelings of dread in many. But for people who actually live in the Barbican, it’s not dystopian at all.


One of those people is Anton Rodriguez, a photographer who specializes in fashion, architecture, and portrait photography. He’s lived in the Barbican for the past four years with his girlfriend, but in his spare time he takes intimate snapshots of the interior lives and interior design of his fellow Barbican residents–a project that began about a year ago, after he won a grant from VSCO‘s artist initiative.

On his website, Barbican Residents, he profiles 20 different individuals and families who have taken up residence in the Grade II listed landmark–and shoots their spaces as they’ve decorated them, ranging from clean modernism to cluttered domesticity.

In general, those who live in the Barbican tend to have a lot in common, says Rodriguez. Many of the residents tend to live in the tower for years, even switching units multiple times, because of the building’ amenities. For example, Barbican resident Adrian cites “the ambitious features like the hand-textured concrete, the calm podium walkways, and communal underfloor heating, and countless smaller details, like the deliberate small shadow gap where the internal walls meet the ceilings” as the ones that keep him in the building.

Unsurprisingly, Barbican residents also tend to have a lot of designer furniture on display. There’s not much Ikea to be found: Eames chairs seem ubiquitous, and at least one Barbican resident has the twee habit of organizing her books by color.

Rodriguez’s favorite subjects aren’t the young, urban, and rich, though. He likes the Barbican’s older residents, like Kate Wood, who has lived in a ground-floor Mews floor on the Barbican since 1976. Her busy, lived-in, grandmother-like apartment is a refreshing change of pace from most of the Barbican resident’s ultra-trendy, ascetic decors . . . and, perhaps, the truest representation of what the inside apartments of the Barbican looked like through most of the building’s history.

Ultimately, though, even old-time residents like Kate Wood have the same thing in common as their trendier neighbors: a deep appreciation of the estate. “Many people dislike the Barbican because it is Brutalist, but the interiors are far from Brutalist,” Rodriguez says. To move into the Barbican is often to begin a life-long love affair. “Many of the people who move to the Barbican tend to stay for a very long time. I myself have had three different apartments in the estate in just four years.”


[All Photos: Anton Rodriguez]