‘Frobisher Crescent helps to relate, because of its non-directional plan, the converging axes of north and south Barbican’.

Chamberlin Powell and Bon, the architects.

Frobisher Crescent was part of Phase V of the City’s building programme for the Barbican site which comprised the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as well as Frobisher Crescent. The contractor was John Laing Construction Limited. I do not have a precise date for the completion of the building but it was probably completed in 1982 at the same time as the Barbican Centre of which it is an integral part.

Frobisher Crescent was designed as a block of flats, just like the other terrace blocks of the Barbican Estate. For some reason, back in the 70s, the City lost its nerve, and instead of finishing the flats, it turned Frobisher Crescent into an anonymous office building. The City took all the fittings, kitchens and bathrooms intended for the flats and put them in storage. It was the great ‘might have been’ of the Barbican estate. It was meant to be so grand, with its own Sculpture Court no less. (Some developments have gardens, some have fountains, but a sculpture court?) The designers also had ambitious plans for the lower levels, which were also shelved.

These are the plans for flats in Frobisher Crescent which Chamberlin Powell and Bon designed for their 1959 report to the City Corporation. [Click them to see larger versions.]

Below podium level, the architects designed a shopping arcade to follow the curve of the Arts Centre. But there are no shops. It never took off as a shopping precinct and nowadays the lower corridor is mainly used as offices by the Barbican Centre.

During most of its history, Frobisher Crescent has been occupied by the City of London Business School. For decades, if you stood in the empty sculpture court and looked up, what you saw instead of windows, were rows of louvred wooden shutters. You only needed the distant howl of a wolf to complete the picture of a sad building.

But in 2010-11, the top three floors of Frobisher Crescent were converted into attractive flats. The development was carried out by The United House Group and the flats were sold by the City. This is the most exciting new development at the Barbican since … well, since the Barbican.