Student Ellen Tasker focuses on our Estate for her final year project.

I am a final year BA Photography student at the University of Westminster, my final major project ‘Utopia Complex’ is a body of work completely centred around the Barbican Estate. The centre itself is a place I have visited so many times whilst growing up; with family, during school years to see exhibitions and taking as many friends as possible to discover the incredible conservatory. It was a space I loved being in and always felt so inspired by, but it was only when I began my final year and went out in search of inspiration that I realised I knew very little about the actual estate and its history. I began a journey of understanding and studying the space on a much deeper level both visually and theoretically and subsequently have incorporated both aspects of the research within the images themselves. There is so much to uncover and learn about the Estate and with this mass of information I felt it was so important to include these references, as the design of the Estate is one of the main factors that has allowed it to still be popular today. There have been many other brutalist-like estates that have come and gone but I think it is obvious just from looking why the Barbican is one of the very few that have retained relevance and traction.

‘Utopia Complex’ explores the Barbican Estate in its entirety from conception to the present day. Analysing the formation and layout of the Estate from both a visual and historic point of view; the combination of contemporary and historical media and processes creates layers that parallel with the Estate’s past and present. Mimicking the tone of a blueprint the cyanotype foundation links the images back to the birth of this brutalist architecture and what it represents, the reconstruction of not only buildings but life post-war, there was belief in these plans for the future. A blueprint for a new era with the hope of a better world, one that unfortunately did not materialise in the way these architects had hoped. The Barbican Estate provides an insight into what that life might have looked like. In that sense, the estate has a great other-worldly yet nostalgic feel for those that grew up in the post-war era.

The work for me whilst being on the surface something quite objective has also ended up being very personal, throughout the project I have spent a great deal of time within the estate discovering every little detail possible. I have also had the pleasure of interacting and talking to some of the residents that reside within the apartments, it gave me a great understanding of what it is like to live there and why people do, there seems to be a great sense of community and pride running throughout the estate. It was wonderful to hear from people who had as much fascination with the Estate as I did from a completely different point of view. In a sense, I am rather an ‘outsider’ but with every interaction I was never made to feel that way, the graded listing and prestige of the place can lead you to think it may be quite cold and isolated, in reality it is a hive of activity and the heart of a community.

Source Graduate photography online degree show.

The individual project page for Utopia Complex.

Contact Ellen Tasker on email for more details.