Happy birthday dear Barbican

The Square Mile's most famous address is celebrating being 40 with an exciting new homes launch. The iconic 1960s estate has never been more popular, discovers David Spittles
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Barbican has more than 2,000 homes and the 4,000 people who live there represent more than half the City's population
Barbican, the brutalist concrete housing estate beloved by many, including modern-day architects, celebrates its 40th birthday next week.

The anniversary marks the date when the first residents moved to the Square Mile's most famous address and coincides with the unveiling of 69 new homes in an original Barbican block, that was designed as flats but only used as office space.

This Barbican revival is part of a wider residential renaissance in the City, which in recent years has become a more colourful and lively place, with shops, fashion boutiques, bars and restaurants staying open into the evening.

Another 59 new flats will be launched soon at Lamb's Passage, next to historic Chiswell Street Brewery, while 67 new riverside apartments with spectacular views of Tate Modern are for sale at Sir John Lyon House, High Timber Street.

Barbican's new flats are at listed Frobisher Crescent, a nine-storey semi-circular building surrounded by landscaped communal areas and sitting above the underground arts complex.

'It has its own salvage store where residents can donate or buy everything from original sinks to door handles'

The refurbished building has a characteristic concrete exterior, softened by slatted wooden shutters and a domed roofline, while the view from all the flats is an awesome mix of ancient and modern, taking in St Giles Cripplegate, one of the City's few remaining medieval churches, majestic St Paul's Cathedral and the sleek shape of the Gherkin.

Interiors conform to the functional style of the original Barbican flats - "contemporary yet retro", according to Antony Crovella of developer United House. This amounts to understated white lacquered kitchens, oak floors, chrome light fittings, ceilings with "shadow gaps" and cabling for the digital age.

Top-floor apartments are double height, courtesy of the arched roof space. Six end flats have wraparound terraces. Prices range from £350,000 for space-efficient studios with a foldaway bed, to £1.85 million for three-bedroom duplexes.

Existing Barbican residents who want to buy are being given first bite of the cherry, and six people have reserved homes ahead of next week's official launch. Call 020 7606 8000.

These new homes come at a time when Barbican has never been a more popular place to live. While post-war concrete architecture
elsewhere is denigrated, the Barbican has become more sought-after and more fashionable as it has aged. "People feel they are buying into something unique, a collectors' item," says Glen Cook of estate agent Hamilton Brooks.

Houses and flats to rent in Barbican Estate
Houses and flats for sale in Barbican Estate

From blitz to city ritz

Created out of the ruins of a Blitz bomb site, Barbican covers 40 acres smack bang in the middle of the Square Mile and has 2,113 homes. About 4,000 people, more than half the City's residential population, live there.

Remarkably, there are an astonishing 164 property "types" - ranging from studios to spectacular penthouses to five-storey houses overlooking historic London Wall. In total there are 21 blocks and three skyscrapers.

Frobisher Crescent
From £350,000: 69 new flats at Frobisher Crescent, part of the original Barbican but used for offices until now. Call 020 7606 8000
Built over a decade from the mid-1960s by City Corporation, it was designed as a small walled town (echoing the old Roman city) and effectively became an upmarket council estate where homes were let to "City professionals" and key workers, which at the time meant barristers and bankers as well as postmen and milkman.

Today, 94 per cent of homes are privately owned, and many are pieds-à-terre. Service charges for a two-bedroom flat are about £2,000 a year. The cost includes cleaning and maintenance of all shared areas and gardens, waste disposal and heating from a communal system.

Estate staff are available 24 hours a day to provide keys and handle deliveries. Residents pay £1,038 a year to rent a parking space at any City Corporation car park.

City planners have put in place a conservation strategy to protect the fabric of the listed estate. Some Barbican flats have original kitchens and bathrooms and other fixtures and fittings - that is one of their attractions - but often interiors are tired-looking.

Owners are free to refurbish apartments but need permission for internal structural changes such as moving or removing walls. A number of "heritage flats" have been retained by estate managers for letting. The Barbican even has its own salvage store where original items - from sinks to door handles - can be donated or bought. The estate has a low crime rate and there is little anti-social behaviour among its residents.

Ken Mackay and Tracey Wiles
© James Balston
Ken Mackay and Tracey Wiles have turned a former window cleaners' storeroom into the estate's largest apartment, which they share with their three children
Architect Ken MacKay, who lives there with his family (left), says: "Barbican was built as a brave new world. The outside communal space is terrific. It's like having keys to a private garden square. We have children's play areas, tennis courts, landscaped terraces and the arts complex all on the doorstep.

"In the past many homes were used as a pied-à-terre by people with a home in the country. But it's a wonderful purpose-built environment now being discovered by families. We've been surprised by how many couples with children live here."

Square-mile opportunities

The actual "Square Mile" runs from Chancery Lane in the west to Aldgate in the east, from the Thames in the south up to Charterhouse Street and Chiswell Street in the north.

Several residential schemes of note are under way. Moreover, developments are sprouting up around the edges of the old Roman walls - in areas such as Smithfield, Finsbury, Spitalfields, Bishopsgate and the old newspaper district of Fleet Street.

Sir John Lyon House, a former tea warehouse and offices, is being redeveloped into 67 apartments, some with stunning views across the Thames to Tate Modern. Prices are from £750,000 to £2.35 million. Call estate agent Cluttons on 020 7407 3669.

Houses and flats to rent in Barbican Estate
Houses and flats for sale in Barbican Estate

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