5 Lambert Jones Mews, Barbican
Chamberlin Powell & Bon
- Original design
- Chamberlin Powell & Bon, 1985
“Two storeys of glazed engineering brick set forward of and below the level of the podium, reached via their own roadway, with granite setts continued as low walls to the front of the houses….”
5 Lambert Jones Mews is a rare house within the Barbican Estate. The Barbican is more commonly associated with living designed for the single city worker, with approximately 83% of flats constructed with one or two bedrooms. In consultation with the estate agents Goddard and Smith, the architects came to include family four bedroom properties into their 1959 plan. The aim was to offer a diverse choice to prospective tenants.
The Barbican’s influences extend from Italian walled cities and Baroque gardens to West End squares, and the cobbled street and internal garage of LJM are a direct reference to fashionable West End mews properties.
Throughout the planning stages for the Estate, Chamberlin Powell & Bon remained committed to the principles of pedestrianisation, car-ownership and private, urban living within a residential neighbourhood. We hope you enjoy discovering some of these principles during your tour of the house.
“The intention underlying our design is to create a coherent residential precinct in which people can live conveniently and with pleasure”
Barbican Report, 1959
A notable feature in Barbican residences are the cupboards by the door for storage, postal deliveries and rubbish collection. These were once part of a plan for each flat to have an individual lift entrance with a connecting “tradesman” door for deliveries. The lift entrances were never realised but the cupboards remain throughout the estate.
The mezzanine and sliding door partition into the second bedroom are an example of ‘ensuite’ rooms that are a feature throughout the Barbican, where partial walls or barriers divide communal open-plan living from private spaces. The door from Bedroom 2 leads directly out into the private residents’ garden, a feature unique to LJM.
Bedroom 5 was the internal garage before it was converted into a bedroom. Some properties on the mews are still able to access this room through the garage door on the outside.
The similarity between 5LJM and the life-size model of Le Corbusier’s duplex apartment for the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, on display at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris, is uncanny (notably the double-height living space, open tread staircase and wooden and tile detailing). Indeed, Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Berlin was visited by the Barbican Committee on their European Tour in October 1958.
“We were all into Le Corbusier, rather”
Geoffry Powell in conversation, August 1989 (quoted in E. Harwood, p. 4)
An open tread staircase to the first floor maintains an open impression and permits light to filter from the back of the property towards the front door. The stairs, window and door frames are iroko, a tropical West African hardwood, and the highly specialised fittings were produced by a marine metal fabricator. As with the garden door in Bedroom 2, the doors out to the balcony have a lever handle that locks the door on its hinges.
Bedroom 3 is one of the more problematic spaces due to its height and smaller surface area. Other LJM properties have split this space with a mezzanine.
The attention to detail paid to the original Barbican fittings (such as the plug socket in Bedroom 3 and the bathroom door handles and locks) have been likened to luxury car design of the same era. Although these fittings are Barbican specific and uniform throughout the Estate, they are the antithesis of standardisation, as they heighten the feeling of luxury modern living (Heathcote: see ‘Further Reading’).
The kitchen and all of the bathrooms have been renovated from the original prefabricated Barbican kitchens. While the architects intended Barbican living to be adaptable to the owner’s personal tastes, the original kitchens and bathrooms came fully fitted with the properties.
“Paved near-flat roof, brick parapets with 1990s metal tops, behind which are slabbed roof gardens and projecting ventilated service or stores turrets”
Barbican planning guidelines
Above the doorways leading out onto the balcony is a good example of contrasting exterior finishes. Throughout the Barbican pick-hammered concrete was used as an economical and resilient means to hide the joints between poured concrete sections. The red brickwork along the staircase is a more traditional reference to urban industrial architecture. Note that there are no external drainpipes: all drainage goes through the house to preserve an uncluttered exterior.
The roof terraces of Lambert Jones Mews are connected by a communal walkway and look South-East over Thomas More Gardens towards City of London School for Girls and the Barbican Centre. The spire of St. Giles, restored from a blitzed shell during the Barbican’s construction, is also visible. The roof terrace and the residents’ garden are perhaps the best features of 5LJM, and support an often surprising variety of flora and fauna.
The Barbican’s roofscape was described by its architects as the “fifth façade”. From the terrace the confusing landscape of the Barbican is clear, and it is notable that the site itself was not levelled before construction began. The outlook from the terrace is towards the sunken centre of Thomas More Gardens and the lake, and is accessible from this level, street level and clearly visible from the raised podiums.
Elain Harwood, ‘Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (20th Century
Architects), RIBA Enterprises, 2001
David Heathcote, ‘Barbican: Penthouse Over the City’, John
Wiley & Sons, 2004