Lakes in the Barbican Estate

I live in Defoe House, so when I have guests we usually go up the steps from Lauderdale Place and walk along the front of the building to my flat near the far end. Since most people believe the Barbican to be a concrete jungle, the first reaction of surprise is when they see the trees and gardens laid out on their right. But as we approach the end, and they catch a glimpse of the lake and the fountains, most people literally stagger with surprise.


No one can believe that such a body of water could have been created like this in the middle of a housing estate. (For some reason, it is much more surprising to people to see the lake from the perspective of the Barbican as a housing development, than it is to people visiting the Barbican Centre.)

The lake is in front of the Barbican Centre. It follows the line of the underground railway between Barbican and Moorgate stations. The lake steps down a level under Gilbert House.

Some of the Brandon Mews flats face onto the lake at the east end, near the waterfall. Andrewes House, St Giles Terrace, and then the Girls’ School form the northern boundary. The lake goes underneath St Giles Terrace and then forms another lake behind the Girls’ School below Mountjoy House, with an extension in front of Wallside.

The lake is only half a meter deep in most places, which is not anywhere deep enough to support large fish life. The shallowness of the lake is a problem, and the water has to be circulated constantly to keep it oxygenated and healthy. The story I was told many years ago was that it was originally meant to be a garden and the City Fathers decided on a lake at the last minute so that’s why it’s so shallow. Maybe that’s an urban myth.

The lake serves the filtration system for the Barbican Arts Centre.