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The post-war complex was designed in the 1950s by British firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon – a team of three young architects who had recently established their reputation by winning the the 1951 design competition for the nearby Golden Lane Estate.
With its coarse concrete surfaces, elevated gardens and trio of high-rise towers, the Barbican Estate offered a new vision for how high-density residential neighbourhoods could be integrated with schools, shops and restaurants, as well world-class cultural destinations.
The architects – Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell and Christoph Bon – sought to create a complex that created a clear distinction between private, community and public domains, but that also allowed pedestrians as much priority as cars…
The site had been left almost entirely demolished by bombing during the second world war, so the architects were tasked with developing an entire city plot from scratch.
Designs were finalised in 1959, construction extended through the 60s and 70s, and the complex was officially opened by the queen in 1982.
The basis for the design came from a vision for a podium, a car-free realm raised up over the city’s busy streets to allow visitors and residents to explore the site on foot.
Brick pathways indicate different routes, while landscaped gardens and lakes offer a pleasant outlook for residents.
Flats were distributed between three 43-storey towers – known as Shakespeare, Cromwell and Lauderdale – and a series of 13 seven-storey blocks. Aimed at young professionals, the residences feature simple layouts with compact kitchens and bathrooms.