July 1969. Speed House was the first Barbican block to be built. This building was part of Phase III of the City’s building programme for the Barbican site. The contractor was John Laing Construction Limited.
Speed House is a terrace block tucked into the north-east corner of the estate, running east to west between The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Willoughby House. It forms the northern boundary of Speed Garden.
Speed House is an ‘east-west’ or ‘front to back’ block which means that it runs from east to west and the flats in them go the whole depth of the block from the front to the back (so residents look out of their windows north and south). Most of the building receives good evening sun in the living rooms.
There are 4 very similar terrace blocks: Andrewes House and Speed House which face each other over the lake; and Thomas More House and Defoe House, which face each other over Thomas More Gardens. They each have penthouse flats at the top, ‘garden’ flats below the Podium level, and 6 floors of flats in between.
Speed House has 114 flats, maisonettes and penthouses with accommodation varying from two to five rooms. There are five floors of flats starting one level above the podium, with penthouse flats on the top floor. In addition, there are maisonette flats below podium level. Living rooms overlooks the garden and the lake. The garden flats differ from those in the similar blocks. Instead of two levels of single-storey flats below the Podium, the garden flats in Speed House are two-floor maisonettes, mainly of Type 84, with both living room and bedroom windows looking north over the gardens and lake.
There are entrance doors at podium level on Speed Highwalk for each staircase. There are stairs to some of the garden flats by separate entrances between the pillars on the podium.There is also access at street level from Silk Street, next to the Guildhall School of Music, where you can either go through a gate into Speed Garden, or take a residents-only lift to the podium (or higher if you live in that section), or turn left down the ramp to the Speed Car Park.
Lifts and staircases
Since each flat takes up the depth of the building, there is no central corridor. Instead, there are separate staircases with lifts every two flats along the block. Each staircase serves two flats on each floor. There are 8 staircases numbered 27 to 34.
On 02 level there is access to the Speed Car Park, whose entrance is off Silk Street next to the Guildhall School of Music. (The Willoughby Car Park sit on top of it at 01 level, also under Speed House.) There is also a 03 level which is marked as car parking on some signs and lifts, but in fact that now belongs to The Heron.
I haven’t located the tenants’ stores.
At the front, Speed House overlooks Speed Garden, its own very attractive little garden with swings and a slide for children. There are large bushes and shrubs in beds next to the Guildhall School, and very lush grass and flowers. In front of Speed Garden is a covered bower which leads to the School and then to The Barbican Arts Centre. Beyond is the lake. At the back of Speed House is Speed Highwalk, with round concrete tubs full of low flowering plants and some wooden benches. Otherwise, the outlook at the back is over the office buildings in Silk Street.
List description of this building issued by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (as it then was) in 2001.
“Block VI: 1-114 Speed House. Seven storeys above podium with two storeys under. Seven broad bays between concrete columns supporting cross beams, the ends of the beams on other floors exposed to form large bays. Each of these are subdivided into three room spans, forming a pattern for the flats along the facades of two and one units width between glazed firescreens. A narrower eighth bay set at right angles. The podium is open, but with glazed entrances to the flats in each of the eight bays. Sliding varnished timber windows set behind paved balconies, with metal and glass balustrades and many with concrete window boxes, painted undersides of roof. 24 rooftop penthouses, with double height fully-glazed ends under rounded tops, given a distinctive white finish. The one-two pattern of the flats is explained by their being ‘L’-shaped and having a double aspect, each pair wrapped around a central fully glazed lightwell containing staircase and lift. Two-storey maisonettes set around similar staircases and lifts on the levels below the podium, with car ports and bedrooms on the lower level.”