“Wherever possible, flats, maisonnettes and houses are planned to catch the sun during at least part of the day. They are also designed so that they enjoy a good prospect from the living room windows.”
“Generous windows are provided throughout the development to allow good lighting to all parts of the flats and to take the best advantage of the outlook. The design of the superstructure of both the long blocks and the tower blocks allows the exterior wall to be designed as a light framework of windows and solid panels.”
Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959
The structural design of both the terrace and the tower blocks allowed the exterior wall to contain a framework of very large windows, which allow good lighting to all parts of the flats (except the kitchens and bathrooms) and to give a fabulous view in most cases. Chamberlin Powell & Bon, the architects, clearly gave a lot of thought to this. In their 1959 Report to the Corporation, they advised:
“Window bars should be infrequent, slender, and if possible should be tapered inside to avoid a shadowed face. The main frame should be narrow or shaped to minimise shadows”.
Horizontal pivoted windows
For windows in some flat types there are large horizontal pivoted windows. These were chosen by Christof Bon because they could be easily cleaned from inside. They were supplied by a company in Germany. They are also used at the girl’s school.
Very good quality hardwood was used for the windows and their surrounds and the wood was painted with clear varnish. The overall effect from a distance is to give a warm honey colour to the buildings. This seems almost an iconic part of the development; it certainly is to those of us who live with our wonderful sliding windows. But it was not originally intended to be so! In their final design report to the Court of Common Council on the residential development at the Barbican in April 1959, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon recommended:
The steel window frames have a permanent plastic coating which requires no further decoration.
Thank you, whoever you were, who opposed that bit of the scheme!
The Barbican Estate Office arranges for the outside of the windows to be cleaned. Access may be required to some flats for this purpose, but usually they can use the firemen’s access doors to reach the balconies.
Use of sliding windows
The timber-framed sliding windows are released and secured by turning the handle 180° – half a turn. Apparently you should only secure them in the closed position or you may damage the bolt and track.
During construction of the estate The Barbican Committee became concerned for the safety of small children getting onto the tower balconies via the sliding doors. They made a recommendation to the Court of Common Council in a report dated 8 April 1968 which was approved. They arranged to have built a stock of wooden railings (similar to the side of a playpen) which could be bolted into the window openings to prevent small children getting access to the balconies, while at the same time permitting the sliding window to be kept open or closed. They recommended that these could be supplied on request to tenants with small children who wanted that facility. I don’t know if these are still available today, but it sounds like an excellent precautionary measure.