Once a maze of endless corridors, dour lighting, the notorious trails of yellow lines and incomprehensible signposting, the Barbican estate is seeing the benefits of a pounds 9.7m programme to improve its access and appearance.
Brass plates are replacing scrappy signs currently in use and a new sculpture by Matthew Spender will act as a landmark. Illuminated maps of each floor have been placed at strategic points and the blue canopy with its Muses over the main entrance in Silk Street signals a clear 'Path In'.
Most of the 5,000 residents know their way around (although one resident admitted that after six months he still found it hard to navigate the path to Marks and Spencer). More pitiful are the 2 million visitors each year who don't.
'I'm always getting stopped by tourists who are well off the beaten track, said nanny Sofie Burns, 25, a resident of Shakespeare Tower. 'It must be hell.
The refurbishment is not quite finished, but Independent London gave it a preview. Most residents were full of qualified praise, but to tourists it was first and foremost a maze. 'But it's a 'heady' maze, said one with a twinkle. 'I love it. I love the grey, I love the damp, I love the twists and turns.
'The first time I came here for my job interview, my employers gave me detailed guidelines about which path to follow, remembered Ms Burns. 'I got hopelessly lost in the corridors. It was very upsetting. I thought, 'how can I possibly work in a place like this?'
Getting around is no longer a problem (she has been there for several years). The information signs are much improved.
But Ms Burns thinks the yellow lines are useless. They need arrows. She makes a point of not following them.
The refurbishment ignores the lines, apart from giving them a lick of new paint.
Looking flustered and red-faced, was Evonne Smith, 27, a nurse on her way to a rendezvous. She hadn't noticed the yellow lines, she was too busy looking for next floor plan.
'I got off the Tube a stop too early, she said. 'It's all my own fault. But I'll tell you one thing: I'd never walk here alone at night. You don't know what is round each corner. The dim lighting only adds to the worry.
There are no plans to improve the lighting.
Close behind her were four people: two men, two women. 'How easy do you find it, getting around? I said, speaking slowly - the gold handbags gave the game away. 'Yes, yes, was the enthusiastic reply, 'we are from Italy.
'The signposts are easy to understand - yes?
'Oh yes - we came by bus number four.
'What about the yellow lines - have you found them helpful?
'Our first time in England, you understand?
After which, all four smiled sweetly and tottered on.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content