Bricks and tiles in the Barbican Estate

“The use of a material which is visually as well as technologically and historically intermediate between the wholly natural and the wholly man-made emphasises the role of the podium level as ‘ground’ and provides a visual transition in colour and texture between the natural colours of grass, trees, plants and water and the stone grey of the tall buildings. At the same time it links the wholly modern building technology of the Barbican with the older and more familiar style and technology of the historic city.”

‘Barbican’, a 1971 report by the Cement and Concrete Association

Wow! They really knew how to write promotional blurb in those days. But I guess that a cement and concrete association would have every reason to nurse very warm feelings towards the Barbican designers in the 1970s.

As a contrast to the concrete of the buildings, the architects used ‘earth coloured’ tiles to pave the podium and other hard-paved open areas. External walls supporting the podium and the flats and houses below podium level are also faced in what are called semi-engineering bricks of the same colour and texture.

The ‘earth coloured’ tiles are very visible as flooring right across the estate. The podiums of north and south Barbican are paved with them. So are the hard-paved areas below podium level, such as the forecourts of Lauderdale and Cromwell Towers.

Hard surfaces below podium level are lined with identical brick and tiles. This applies to stairs, the lake surrounds, car parks (for the most part), and the entrances to flats below podium level. The public access corridors below Frobisher Crescent are lined with them floor to ceiling, as are some external walls at street level.