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The Barbican Launderette on Fann Street in the City of London was opened in 1973. It not only served the 2,100 homes within the Barbican Estate, but was also essential for residents at the nearby YMCA building.
The Barbican Estate is a residential area built during the 1960s and the 1980s within the City of London in an area once devastated by World War II bombings. Today, the estate is densely populated by financial institutions. It is recognized as one of the finest examples of Brutalist architecture in the world.
Covering 40 acres, it sits on the area known as Cripplegate. Following one of London’s heaviest bombing raids on December 29 1940, the area was almost totally destroyed. Planning started in 1952 to rebuild the area. Architects Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell, and Christoph Bon were appointed to design the new development.
Constructed through the 1960s and 70s, the complex was officially opened by the queen in 1982. Flats were distributed between three 43-story towers – Shakespeare, Cromwell and Lauderdale – and a series of 13 seven-story blocks. The architects combined private, community, and public domains with eight acres of gardens and lakes, a cinema, theatre, and exhibition hall.
The Barbican Launderette has been owned by the same family since it opened, and is one of just 350 launderettes that remain in London. At their peak in the 1980s, over 1,600 launderettes existed in the city; today, as over 97% of households have their own washing machines, London launderettes are an increasingly more of a rare sight. Nevertheless, although numbers are dwindling, launderettes are unlikely to disappear entirely; and those that remain will continue to play an important role for local communities.
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