Room layouts of flats in the Barbican Estate

“In most of the flat plans we have sought a compromise by providing at least a living room which is reasonably large in its overall dimensions, while the other rooms are fairly modest in size.”

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

Images from original Barbican letting brochures

Images from original Barbican letting brochures

The internal layout of flats was designed to be flexible. The architects envisaged that some occupants would want to be able to escape one another, while occupants from ‘middle and upper income groups’ would want larger rooms.

They introduced sliding or folding screens in many rooms. I think the sliding doors are an excellent idea, in theory, although my impression is that people rarely use them and generally keep the living area as large as possible.

People might have escaped one another by using screens in 1959, but in the 21st century, divorce is the more usual solution.

The decision was also made that kitchens and bathrooms should always be in the back of flats, so that living rooms and bedrooms would have all the windows. The rationale behind this was that people don’t object to bathrooms without natural light, and most cooking in kitchens would be done in the evenings or early mornings when it might be dark anyway.

This seems to be perfectly logical, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about the kitchens or bathrooms lacking direct sunlight. Actually kitchens often have reasonable natural light via large serving hatches facing into the dining/living area.