1958 Scheme for the Barbican Estate

The City Corporation commissioned Chamberlin Powell and Bon to prepare a further report based on their existing 1955 and 1956 reports. They were asked to prepare a scheme for the development of the “non-commercial” part of the Barbican area, that is basically the Barbican area between Beech Street and London Wall. They were asked to consult Goddard Smith on the potential for renting the flats and the amount of income to be obtained. (I am not going to comment on the financial and rental discussions of the time.) The architects reported on 20 June 1958.

They set out first some principles they were adopting.

  • Concentration of the flats in compact blocks so that as much as possible of the ground between the buildings could be laid out as open space.
  • Siting garages at basement, ground and first floor levels under terraces or blocks of flats, accessible from service roads.
  • Terrace blocks of flats to be limited to a uniform height above ground level of about eight storeys.
  • The height of the three towers to echo the height of the commercial tower planned on the north-east corner of the site at the top end of Moor Lane.

This was the result they said they were aiming at.

“The basic form of the layout follows the historical precedent to be found in urban planning of grouping buildings flanking the sides of clearly defined open spaces, dating from the Greek agora and repeated in the Roman forums, the piazzas, plazas and places of Renaissance Europe up to the squares which are still such a familiar feature of London.”

They envisaged the collection of terraces and towers as a harmonious architectural whole.

“The two squares to the East and the West are intended to be more secluded in character. These squares being only partially enclosed are framed in such a way that the open space, though clearly defined, flows easily from one to another. The balance and unity of the composition depends on the contrast between the uniformly high long blocks, and the three towers, the whole being linked together by the low level terraces and the garden layout.”

They provided a plan which is worth looking at. The architects’ plans included an arcade of shops and a restaurant, and a swimming pool. It was envisaged at this stage that a lending library, as recommended by the Library Committee, would occupy space under one of the blocks of flats.