Garages

“One covered car parking space is provided for every flat in the South Barbican area. By present standards this is a generous provision and may be in excess of the demand during the first few years. Taking into account the ever increasing number of cars on the road and the type of tenant for whom the flats are designed, we have judged it wise to provide for this large number of vehicles. All car parking is situated beneath the podium out of sight of the flats. In all cases access from cars to flats is under cover and involves the minimum walking distance.”

Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959

The architects took a far-sighted view of the future need for parking space. They considered three methods of parking. The first one – and the one adopted – was customer parking. They described this as “the simplest, the cheapest and generally the most satisfactory for public garages.” The driver simply drives in and parks.

The second option was attendant parking. This would have involved staff (no doubt in uniforms with gold braid and peaked caps) parking residents’ cars and getting them out again the next morning for the drive to work. This was abandoned because: “The inconvenience of waiting to collect the car in the morning would be extremely irksome.”

The third option – mechanical parking – was highly ambitious. “The general principle is similar to attendant parking except that the car is moved by hoists and trolleys to its parking space and returned in the same manner.” What were these guys smoking? The Barbican Committee concluded solemnly that “the disadvantages of attendant parking apply with the addition of considerable capital expenditure.” But since there was an experimental system in Milan they naturally had to send delegates to pay a visit in 1958 before coming to that conclusion. (The unlucky ones who didn’t make it were probably consoled by getting a place on the delegation to inspect Garchey refuse systems in Leeds.)