All balconies and roof terraces are paved with pre-cast concrete slabs faced with exposed Pen Lee granite aggregate, the same granite which makes up the concrete of the buildings themselves.



The balconies have balustrades, consisting of a concrete ‘upstand’ (or small wall) about 17 inches wide and about 16 inches high, and a metal frame. The metal frame has uprights placed 5 feet apart, near the outer edge of the upstand. Wires a few inches apart run through holes in the upstands. There are vertical panels of toughened glass above the inner face of the concrete upstands. The idea was to provide some safety against anyone falling off the balcony while still allowing an unimpeded view out of the flats. There is room for window boxes to be placed on the upstand.

Privacy screens

The balconies run along complete sides of buildings, and they are subdivided for individual flats by glazed privacy screens. These screens can be opened to allow a fire escape along the balconies, but their main purpose is to give each flat privacy from people on the balconies next door.


I am sure you won’t be tempted, but just in case: it is forbidden to hang your washing out on the balconies.

Window boxes

You cannot get rid of the original window boxes because they are specifically protected by the Grade II listing of the estate. You can get new window boxes from the Barbican Estate Office; but if you buy your own, you need to make sure they are in keeping with the standard window boxes.

Your lease requires you to keep your window boxes cultivated. This does not apply to tower block flats for some reason. The Barbican Estate Office can also give you a guide to growing plants in Barbican window boxes, written by a resident. (My fingers aren’t so much green as gangrene. I manage to kill off all the plants in my window boxes every year – even weeds cannot survive my nurturing efforts.)

Water penetration

Water is meant to drain off balconies into little drains. These can get blocked up with leaves and so on, and that can lead to leaks. The Barbican Estate Office recommend you clear away leaves and other blockages when they occur. (Really? I would never have thought of that on my own.)

If the flat downstairs suffers water damage because of something which it is your responsibility to do – like keeping the drain clear – then you will have to pay. If it’s due to some physical problem with the balcony or drain, then it should be the City Corporation’s responsibility as landlord and be covered by the service charge.

Fire escape

The balconies combine to form a fire escape round the building, so you are not meant to leave anything out on the balconies.

Most of the terrace blocks have balconies which run round the perimeter of the blocks at each floor level. People who live in the flats reach them through the sliding doors in the living room or ordinary doors, usually in the bedroom. The balcony serve a dual purpose as a means of escape in case of fire.