“The long terrace blocks form an upper layer of development; sometimes rising directly from the podium and, at others, raised above it on columns, they are designed to form a background to the carefully controlled spaces at ground level.”
Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959
The terrace blocks in the South Barbican run either north to south or east to west. The position is very similar in the North Barbican, except that the ground plan of the buildings there follows the ‘grid’ of the adjoining Golden Lane Estate rather than that of the South Barbican.
The terrace blocks in the North Barbican area have all their flats above ground (‘ground’ in this connection meaning the podium, which is in fact many feet above the level of the streets surrounding the Barbican.) But the point is that there are no basement flats in the North Barbican.
The situation in the South Barbican area is different. It too has its podium above ground level (albeit about 10 feet lower than the podium of the North Barbican). But it also has a sunken lake and gardens which are many feet below the ground level of the surrounding streets. This divergence in levels has led to some dramatic constructions. For instance, the south end of Seddon House is supported on pillars 20 or more feet high, rising from the garden.
Gilbert House is, of course, the most dramatic example, standing on huge columns over the lake, with the bridge slung between the columns.
An additional feature – exclusive to the South Barbican – was the creation of ‘garden flats’. These are flats at garden or lakeside level below the podium. Examples are Speed, Thomas More and Defoe Houses which have flats at garden level, and Andrewes House whose ‘basement flats’ are at the side of the lake with gardens (formed in giant concrete scoops) facing Fore Street.
Most of the terraces in the South Barbican area are constructed so that the residential floors stand on pillars, and pedestrians can walk between the pillars under the terrace at podium level. Only the stair and lift structures at intervals along each terrace form a solid barrier. The flats all start from the first floor. There was no such idea for the North Barbican area. To some extent you can walk below Ben Jonson House, and columns are used to support the part of Bryer Court over its little lake, but basically the buildings are solid structures from the ground up. There are still no flats at podium level. Instead you walk up stairs to an elevated ground floor and take lifts or stairs from there to the residential area above.
Terrace blocks have up to seven residential floors from the first floor level upwards. A particular feature of the Barbican’s terraces is the barrel-vaulted roof where the penthouse flats are to be found.