Portfolio Project Detail

Barbican Culture Kitchen Karena Yeung and Babak Manavi

Culture Mile, the City of London’s initiative to create a cultural destination to reinvigorate the area and improve access to world-class arts, culture, and entertainment is missing one key component, and arguably the most effective and engaging cultural medium, food.

The largely unused Exhibition Hall 2 of the Barbican provides a catalyst for the Culture Mile experience. Sitting at the centre of the Culture Mile, Barbican Culture Kitchen introduces an expansive, curated experience featuring the highest-rated local restaurants and chefs. It brings together 15 unique and culturally diverse food concepts.

Positioned under Ben Jonson House, the current exhibition hall is an unimaginative, window-less bunker that offers limited opportunities to any business or event. We limited our scope of work to the interior of the space, realizing that we would want to coordinate our efforts on the exterior through wayfinding and an entry experience with the City of London’s Barbican and Golden Lane Area Strategy.

The 6,361 square metres of floor space provide a large canvas, but as one enters the space, it is immediately apparent that due to the ceiling height and lack of daylight, the space feels oppressive.

Our interventions:

  • Enlarging the opening on the north half of the floorplate;
  • Opening the roof over the space to add an operable skylight, introducing daylight and natural ventilation;
  • Mirror the floor opening on the south side of the floorplate to create a viewing platform over the dining hall, while creating a more comfortable, airy experience for visitors;
  • Introducing a large mass timber social staircase, seating, and circulation feature to access the rooftop terrace;
  • Removal and replacement of the enclosed circular stairwell positioned down the middle of space with glass-enclosed vertical indoor farms, producing produce for the kitchens;
  • Embracing the massive colonnade with integrated wood tables—making it the main seating area of the Culture Kitchen;
  • Addition of exterior storefront to allow for flexible ordering and seating
    Adopting the iconic bush-hammered finish used throughout the Barbican complex on the columns; and
  • Utilizing the curved arch form of the Barbican’s architectural language in the form of brass archways that delineates the kitchen spaces.

The result is a large unique space that celebrates diversity through its program, location with key connections to cultural venues, and history with notable design elements.