All balconies and roof terraces are paved with pre-cast concrete slabs faced with exposed Pen Lee granite aggregate, the same granite which makes up the concrete of the buildings themselves.
The balconies have balustrades, consisting of a concrete ‘upstand’ (a small wall) about 17 inches wide and about 16 inches high, and a metal frame. The metal frame has uprights placed 5 feet apart, near the outer edge of the upstand. Wires a few inches apart run through holes in the upstands. There are vertical panels of toughened glass above the inner face of the concrete upstands. The idea was to provide some safety against anyone falling off the balcony while still allowing an unimpeded view out of the flats. There is room for window boxes to be placed on the upstand.
The balconies run along complete sides of buildings, and they are subdivided for individual flats by glazed privacy screens. Their main purpose is to give each flat privacy from people on the balconies next door. The screens are designed to be opened to allow a fire escape along the balconies, and they are also opened by the window cleaners.
I am sure you won’t be tempted, but just in case: it is forbidden to hang your washing out on the balconies.
You cannot get rid of the original window boxes because they are specifically protected by the Grade II listing of the estate. You can get new window boxes from the Barbican Estate Office; but if you buy your own, you need to make sure they are in keeping with the standard window boxes.
Your lease requires you to keep your window boxes cultivated. This does not apply to tower block flats for some reason – maybe the high winds make it a hopeless proposition. The Barbican Estate Office can give you a guide to growing plants in Barbican window boxes, written by a resident.
(My fingers aren’t so much green as gangrene. I manage to kill off all the plants in my window boxes every year – even weeds cannot survive my nurturing efforts.)
Water is meant to drain off balconies into little drains. These can get blocked up with leaves and so on, and that can lead to leaks. The Barbican Estate Office recommend you clear away leaves to prevent blockages. They also advise clearing blockages when they occur. (I think I might work that one out on my own.)
If the flat downstairs suffers water damage because of something which it is your responsibility to do – like keeping the drain clear – then you will have to pay. If it’s due to some physical problem with the balcony or drain, then it should be the City Corporation’s responsibility as landlord and be covered by the service charge.
Your balcony serves a dual purpose as an amenity and as a means of escape in case of fire. Most of the terrace blocks have balconies which run round the perimeter of the blocks at each floor level, and the balconies combine to form a fire escape for the flats in the building.
Because the balconies double as fire escapes residents are not meant to leave anything out on the balconies.
Anyone in a flat can reach the balconies via the sliding doors in the living room or, in some flats, another door, often in the bedroom.