Shakespeare Tower in the Barbican Estate


Front page of the City’s original letting brochure

Building completed

February 1976. Shakespeare Tower was, by itself, Phase Va of City’s building programme in the Barbican. It was constructed by Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons Limited.


Shakespeare Tower is the centre-most of the three Barbican Towers, just to the west of the Barbican Arts Centre. It stands in the south podium, and is linked to the north podium (which is a few meters higher to take account of the slight slope of the Barbican site overall).


Shakespeare Tower is 44 storeys high (garage level, street foyer level, 40 storeys of flats and 2 of penthouses). It featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest residential building in Europe for many years.


Shakespeare Tower contains 113 flats and 3 penthouse maisonettes.


There are three flats on each floor, each numbered for the floor number plus 1, 2 or 3 . E.g. flats on the 17th floor are numbered 171, 172, 173. They form columns of 1s, 2s, and 3s.


There are three sides. The No. ‘1’ flats have rooms along the south-facing side, and balconies looking east. The No. ‘2’ flats have rooms along the east-facing side, and balconies looking north. The No. ‘3’ flats have rooms along the north–facing side, and balconies looking west.


The ‘ground floor’ of Shakespeare Tower is at south podium level (the same as Defoe House). The main entrance is reached from Defoe Place at south podium level. There is another entrance off Beech Garden on the north podium (facing Ben Jonson House) which the tower adjoins.


There is a foyer at podium level with a porter at a reception desk. The entrance at first floor level off the north podium leads to stairs down to the foyer. The City didn’t make the same lavish first floor foyer as they did in Cromwell Tower, and they left it as an empty external space.


Beyond the foyer is a lobby with 3 high-speed passenger lifts.

Emergency stairs

There are stairs within the north-facing side of Shakespeare Tower, nearest to the main entrance.


At the south podium level, Shakespeare Tower faces onto Defoe Place, which is the wide concourse which theatre and concert goers use to reach the Arts Centre from Barbican tube station. At the north podium level, Shakespeare Tower faces onto Ben Jonson Place.

List description

List description of this building issued by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (as it then was) in 2001.

“Blocks I, II and 111: Triangular plan with upswept balconies running round, jagged stepped tops containing penthouses, of up to three storeys with roof gardens. Below penthouse level there are three large flats per floor, the living rooms in the prows, served by a ce ntral triangular well with a lift on each side, which can be ordered from a common central control panel. Sliding timber windows, metal and glass balustrades, the steel uprights painted. Double-height glazed entrances.”