Terrace blocks in the Barbican Estate

“The long terrace blocks form an upper layer of development; sometimes rising directly from the podium and, at others, raised above it on columns, they are designed to form a background to the carefully controlled spaces at ground level.”

Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959

Layout grid

The terrace blocks in the South Barbican are parallel to each other or, if they are next to each other, then at 90 degrees to each other. They run either north to south or east to west.

The position is very similar in the North Barbican , except that the direction of the buildings there follows the ‘grid’ of the adjoining Golden Lane Estate rather than that of the South Barbican.

Building layouts

Terrace blocks have up to seven residential floors from the first floor level upwards.

Seventh-floor flats have high ceilings with barrel-vaulted roofs.

All flats have a balcony, reached via sliding aluminium windows in thick varnished timber surrounds. The balconies have concrete paviours, and window boxes.

The interiors of the flats have cupboards by the front door containing letter boxes and meter boxes.

Garden flats

A feature exclusive to the South Barbican was the creation of ‘garden flats’. These are flats at garden or lakeside level below the podium. Examples are Speed, Thomas More and Defoe Houses which have flats at garden level, and Andrewes House whose ‘basement flats’ are at the side of the lake with gardens (formed in giant concrete scoops) facing Fore Street. There are no basement or garden flats in the North Barbican.


The South Barbican area has its podium above street level. But it also has a sunken lake and gardens which are many feet below street level. This divergence in levels has led to some dramatic constructions. For instance, the south end of Seddon House is supported on pillars 20 or more feet high, rising from the garden. Gilbert House is, of course, the most dramatic example, standing on huge columns over the lake, with the bridge slung between the columns.

Most of the terraces in the South Barbican area are constructed so that the residential floors stand on pillars, and pedestrians can walk between the pillars under the terrace at podium level. Only the stair and lift structures at intervals along each terrace form a solid barrier. The flats above ‘ground’ level all start from the first floor.

There was no such idea for the North Barbican area. The buildings of the North Barbican are also built on a podium (albeit about 10 feet higher than the podium of the south part of the estate). But only some of the buildings are supported on columns. Most are built with steps up from the podium and no space underneath the buildings. Instead you walk up stairs to an elevated ground floor and take lifts or stairs from there to the residential area above. To some extent you can walk below Ben Jonson House, and columns are used to support the part of Bryer Court over its little lake, but most of the buildings are solid structures from the ground up. As in the south part of the estate, here are still no flats at podium level .