First residents move in to Blake Tower

Named after the poet, artist and mystic William Blake, who is buried in nearby Bunhill Fields, and not the Marvel Comics lawyer for the righteous of the same name, Blake Tower, is, as readers of Barbican Life magazine will well know, the Barbican’s fourth tower block although considerably shorter in elevation than the estate’s main tower blocks – once Europe’s tallest residential towers.  And, after three to four years of construction it has been converted from a 218 room YMCA hostel to provide 74 high specification residential units to be added to, and run by,  the Barbican Estate. The first new residents are already in place having started to move in in April and May.

The main entrance to the new Barbican block emphasises the estate’s pick-hammered concrete facades

According to architects Conran & Partners, which was appointed by developer Redrow Homes to design this new Barbican apartment complex, the 17-storey 1960’s building, is one of the finest examples of British Brutalist architecture, matching that of the rest of the Barbican.  Originally designed by Chamberlin Powell and Bon, the former YMCA hostel, is, like the rest of the estate, Grade 2 listed.  The new homes comprise a mix of one, two and three bedrooms, studios and two penthouses to encourage a range of different buyers to the area.  Most have already been sold, including all the studio apartments and, as noted above, the first residents are already moving in.  At the time of writing 24 of the new flats had been occupied and only 16 still remained on the market.

While obviously not capable of providing the kinds of views from the upper floors achieved by the Barbican’s three main 42 storey towers, building height restrictions on Aldersgate Street and Goswell  Road means that most Blake Tower apartments also have great views over the rooftops, which can verge on the spectacular, particularly when the City is lit up at night.

Spectacular view to the southwest from a Blake Tower flat.

Conran and Partners also notes that the theme of “Modern Heritage” inspired the project; sensitively drawing on the area’s rich history and cultural spirit. The iconic curve as seen in the Barbican’s unique balustrades are subtly woven into the design details, from a striking brass screen in reception, to bespoke bathroom sinks and curved brass door handles.   The distinctive material palette of pick-hammered concrete, ceramic tile and terrazzo are complemented by a warm, soft and tactile material composition of timber floor, smooth white plaster and refined brassware inspired throughout the Barbican estate.

The apartments have been strategically planned to reveal the building’s original architectural anatomy. Private bedroom and bathroom spaces are cocooned by existing concrete walls with circulation and public living spaces planned openly around them.

Open plan living and high spec. kitchen area in a Blake Tower 2-bed apartment

The overall result is very pleasing to the eye.  Open plan kitchen/living room spaces are very well equipped with the appliances hidden behind integral doors.  Bathrooms too are well equipped, while the living areas are mostly large.  In the one, two and three bed units the bedrooms are large enough to take king size, and even super king size beds.

Appliance and kitchen specifications are comprehensive and include: Fully fitted contemporary kitchen units with soft close mechanism to doors and drawers; Terazzo worktop and splash backs; Terazzo sink with brass mixer tap; Instant hot water tap; Built-in Siemens appliances including a double oven (2 & 3 beds only – one beds have a single oven), fridge/freezer, dishwasher & microwave; 4-ring Gorenje induction hob; Built in extractor unit and; Freestanding Siemens washer/dryer to the hall cupboard or utility space.

Location wise Blake Tower is also, like the rest of the Barbican Estate, hard to beat – ideal for inner-city living within Zone One. Residents live within the love-it-or-hate it iconic Brutalist architecture of the Barbican, interlaced with a botanical garden, lakes, water fountains, restaurants, shops and world-class cultural destinations. The Barbican Centre, Museum of London and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama are practically on the doorstep to ensure culture vultures are spoilt for choice with an endless array of art and photography exhibitions, music and plays from classic Shakespeare to contemporary productions.

Along with the other Barbican apartments, Blake Tower offers almost unrivalled transport connections from nearby Barbican and Moorgate underground stations and also Farringdon and Liverpool Street Stations only around 5 minutes walk from the east and west ends of the estate.  This all makes the bright lights of Soho and the West End easily accessible in less than twenty minutes.  With the addition of Crossrail due to come into service in late 2018, Farringdon Station will become a major Central London hub and the only station with access to Thameslink, Crossrail and the tube network, making the whole of London only a short ride away.

The remaining Blake Tower penthouse has just been released to the market, priced at £3.7 million.   Located on the 16th and 17th floors, the exclusive Penthouse offers panoramic views of London showcasing some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.  The release of the Penthouse marks the final stage of the development’s completion.

Uniquely located on the 16th and 17th floors, the 2,108 sq. ft. three bedroom duplex Penthouse is one of the most impressive homes available in the City. Almost twice the size of the average UK home, it offers spacious, stylish living with stunning views across the London skyline including St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard and the London Eye seen from the floor to ceiling glass windows that flood the rooms with light and four spacious terraces, a rarity for London.

East facing view from one of the Blake Tower penthouse balconies

Thus the Barbican Estate has, in recent years, seen the addition of over 100 new apartments to the complex with first the Frobisher Crescent additions and now Blake Tower bringing the total number of apartments within the complex to over 2,100.  While the bulk of the Estate is now nearly 50 years old with some interiors beginning to show their age, residents can be thankful that overall construction standards were extremely high and the fabric of the estate remains in great shape – indeed has mellowed with time.  The new Blake Tower apartments also look to be really well specified and the layouts and equipment features will undoubtedly give existing Barbican residents inspiration for apartment refurbishment as and when this becomes necessary.