The Barbican, like so many venues, falls short when it comes to providing enough toilet facilities
A good test of how well a building works is how many signs there are explaining what visitors have to do. When I first went to the Scottish Assembly you couldn’t see the walls for bits of A3 paper covered with arrows stuck up everywhere.
Recently two of us went to a Beethoven concert at the Barbican. Satisfactorily jam packed, and It always feels like good value when the whole of the choir stalls fill up for the last movements of the ninth symphony.
Unfortunately the magic of the experience somewhat diluted by the obvious shortcomings in what Americans would call the “comfort station department”. Not only is it is hard to look dignified when you are standing in a queue waiting to have a pee, but it’s really off-putting when the queues for the lavatories starts to interfere with the queues for the bar. I can imagine some half wit-working for English Heritage explaining why maintaining the original toilet provision is essential to the integrity of the original building.
The intrinsic Brutalist nature of the Barbican makes it a hard building to modify, but every 20 years or so someone is landed with the task. Allford Hall Monaghan Morris have made a brilliant stab at civilising what used to be the worst pedestrian entrance of any public arts building in Europe, but the looks on the faces of the punters squirming around in the interval indicate that not is all well.
Gus' venue verdict: Beethoven 10. Barbican plumbing nil
Look out for Gus Alexander's verdicts on the Emirates Stadium and the Roundhouse theatre on building.co.uk this month