Ben Jonson House is the longest terrace block in the Barbican. It runs east to west on the north podium. At the front, it faces south towards the Barbican Centre. At the back, it looks down on Finsbury and a local school playground. It spans Golden Lane in the middle. It also has a walkway underneath it at that point at podium level.
Flats face north (and overlook the Golden Lane Estate) and/or south (and overlook Frobisher Crescent and Defoe House).
Flats are accessed off a central corridor running from one end of the block to the other, with stairs and lifts at either end and in the middle. In some other blocks, the central corridor is on every floor. As a result, flats can only be quite shallow (from the corridor to the front or from the corridor to the back of the block). But in Ben Jonson House (as in Bunyan Court on a smaller scale), the problem was solved by not having a corridor on every floor. Instead, there is an entrance corridor for each level of flats – on the second, third and fifth floors – which does have a central corridor, and another floor above or below it which has no corridor. This allows the building to be populated with two-storey maisonettes with internal stairs up or down to the non-corridored floor, where they can then take up the whole depth of the floor from front to back.
Bunyan Court is a similar terrace block.
There are seven residential floors above podium level, including two and three storey penthouse flats. There are no flats below podium level. The house contains 204 flats (numbered 201 – 268, 301 – 368, and 501 – 568).
Ben Jonson House has entrance blocks at either end and in the middle. Lift 62 at the west (Bryer Court) end of the block, opens at 02 level leading to a short passage which takes you out onto Bridgewater Street. Central lift 63, on the east side of Golden Lane, also has a 02 level which gives access to Beech Street. Lift 64 at the east (Cromwell Tower) end of Ben Jonson House has an 02 level which leads out into Whitecross Street, just below the pedestrian ramp, and this is a very convenient route for Waitrose (for those of us who live in Defoe House).
Lifts and staircases
Access corridors run from one end of the block to the other, with lifts and staircases at each end and two sets in the middle. The staircases and lifts are: No. 61 at the west (Bryer Court) end, Nos. 62 and 63 in the middle of the block near Golden Lane, and No. 64 at the east (Cromwell Tower) end.
The part of the podium around Ben Jonson House is called Ben Jonson Place. At the front, it has its own mini gardens. Some are raised about a foot above podium level with tiling up the side all round (much beloved by skateboarders apparently). Some are in large brick-walled rectangles. There is a mixture of wooden benches and brick seats so you can enjoy the flowers. There are similar gardens at the back overlooking a local playground. There is an attractive dolphin fountain at the front (and a miserable fountain at the back).
There is access to the Ben Jonson House / Breton House Car Park at 03 level.
I don’t know what the arrangements are for tenants’ stores.
List description of this building issued by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (as it then was) in 2001.
“Block XVII: 201-268, 301-368, 501-568 Ben Jonson House. 52-bay block set over open podium floor and supported on two rows each of giant paired columns. Seven storeys. Complex north elevation with paired balconies on levels 2, 3 and 5, with continuous glazing to levels 1 and 4. On the south elevation levels 1 and 4 are set behind the others. White painted soffits. Roof level with high round-arched motif to principal rooms, entirely glazed between exposed concrete frames and forming roof-line. These higher rooms are set in pairs, save around lifts at either end and in centre, with balconies between. Podium with planting boxes and fountain in paved surrounds, the same red tiles facing round capsules set under the block and serving as exits, mainly for the conference centre underneath. To side of podium balustrade are large concrete raised planting boxes. Links to Breton House.”