“The number of lifts, their position, size and speed, has been calculated to give a waiting time not exceeding 100 seconds; in most cases the period would be shorter.”

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

100 seconds is an absolute eternity! Certainly my lift arrives a lot quicker than that, unless the postman presses every button so he doesn’t have to walk down. Chamberlin Powell & Bon had some interesting observations on flat dwellers’ habits:

“Most people prefer to occupy their time in action rather than to wait, so that it is not uncommon to find persons walking upstairs rather than waiting for a lift, simply because it is not available at the moment it is required. Many people will be tolerant of relatively long walks on the level, but quite intolerant of a few seconds waiting.”

Getting stuck

If a lift ever gets stuck, there’s a reliable system to get you out. There’s an alarm button on the control panel which will set off a siren near the lift shaft. The alarm will also register at the relevant tower block. Lift alarms are controlled by the lobby porters of the tower blocks. The lobby porter will be able to tell which lift has broken down. The lift either has a telephone or a loudspeaker unit so you will be talking directly to the porter as soon as you have sounded the alarm. The lift cars are ventilated so you will not suffer any discomfort. They will have the engineer round in minutes. The lift car is then wound by hand to the nearest floor to let you out.

The alarms are tested periodically. For the terrace blocks, the eastern part of the Estate is controlled from Cromwell Tower and the western part of the Estate from Lauderdale Tower. There are back-up controls in Shakespeare Tower.

Floor levels

In the residential lifts, podium is ground level, other floors are 1, 2, 3 etc. upwards or 01, 02, 03 downwards. 03 level is sometimes street level.

Power cuts

Each tower has standby power in case of a power cut. This is sufficient to supply lobby lights, bring all lifts to the ground, and to keep one lift in use continuously until power is restored.

Moving furniture

You need management approval to use lifts for delivering furniture. Even then, you are not meant to use lifts for moving bulky goods between 5.00 p.m. and 8.00 a.m. For bulky items which might damage the walls, you are meant to obtain a special felt wall covering which fits onto buttons at the top of some lift walls.