The Barbican: Unmoored

August 7, 2013

TL/DR: I have made another thing with architecture, weather and the internet, and you can find it at


The Barbican is one of my favourite buildings, as it is any right-thinking Londoner’s. Brutalist brown, weeping, stained, yet festooned with greenery – and its own biosphere in the form of the Conservatory, complete with carp and terrapins, six storeys up in the heart of the city. The highwalks and underpasses – one of the few places I can still get reliably, joyously lost – speak to a utopian dream of London that never quite comes to pass; its sheer mass, openness and fecundity almost absurd in the closed-in, medieval City.

So I jumped at the chance of doing something for Hack the Barbican, a month-long festival of art and interventions, concentrated on the fabric of the building itself, its hidden spaces and networks. The weather station, recently rescued from the roof of the Southbank Centre and the lost wreck of A Ship Adrift, seemed like a natural fit. It also meant I had an excuse to go up on another roof…

Unmoored reimagines the Barbican Centre as a vast brutalist airship, torn free of its surroundings and taking to the sky, buffeted by summer winds and driven across the country, and the world. Like Ship Adrift, it takes live weather data from the roof of the building and uses it to direct a wandering path. The view from the airship is visualised with Google Earth, and presented as a “window” in the foyer of the building – and online. (Google Earth plays havoc with browsers, so apologies if you need to download a plugin, or if it doesn’t work at all).

A Ship Adrift imagined the network as an ocean, and sailed across it, gathering the voices of those it heard as it went. The Barbican sails more gently, not a mad AI at the helm this time, just us aboard, and the institution, drifting who knows where, into the future, or back again, a piece of London, unevenly distributed. Good luck to her, and us.



Huge thanks to all the Barbican staff, particularly Abi Wood and Dominic Smith, and every at Hack The Barbican, for making this possible. Do follow along at, and on twitter to see where we all end up…

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