How do you update a Modernist landmark for contemporary living? We visit an apartment at the Barbican to find out
The renovation of this Barbican apartment brings 21stcentury living to a Modernist gem
London’s Brutalist Barbican Estate is architectural
Marmite, and has divided opinion since it was first built during the 1960s and 1970s. It was conceived as a utopia of functional living by architecture firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, and built as a trio of concrete high rises with terraced housing blocks. The Barbican Arts Centre was added in 1982 and opened by the Queen, who declared it ‘one of the wonders of the modern world’. Since then, many have marvelled at the building’s gritty modernity, while others deride it as an eyesore.
Barbican resident Ben Ashworth, who works in publishing, is firmly in the former camp. He moved into the Grade Ii-listed Lauderdale Tower in 2004 and, happy in his home, only considered updating the interior of his 100-square-metre apartment last year. He commissioned Bert Rozeman, an architect who had worked on another apartment on the Estate. ‘Initially I had only contemplated a simple refurbishment, but Bert could see the potential here and came up with so many ideas for creating extra space that we ended up overhauling the entire flat,’ Ben says of the five-month project.
Their updates created an open-plan interior lined with custommade storage and painted in two bold colours: red and blue. The two statement shades were mixed using RAL colours (see our Insider Guide on p247) and were chosen to visually divide the functional spaces of the flat from areas for relaxation. The walls in the bedroom, meditation room, living and dining rooms, which all have windows overlooking the balcony, are painted red, while blue appears in the kitchen, bathroom and utility room. Much of the furniture is by Vitsoe (and, hence, British made) and is teak, conjuring a mid-century sensibility that references the history of the building.
During the redesign two formerly spare bedrooms were turned into a study and meditation room, a move that makes the updated apartment much more tailored to Ben’s lifestyle. The meditation room was a particular priority for Ben, to help him de-stress and re-energise, and is lit by a bespoke biodynamic lighting system that varies the brightness and colour of the artificial light to replicate natural daylight. It’s thought to stimulate the body’s biological clock and help to regulate hormone and cortisone levels.
The creation of a spacious kitchen in what was once a pokey, enclosed galley space has also had a huge impact on Ben’s quality of life. ‘ When I cook, I have views across London, which makes the entire flat feel more open and inviting,’ he says. ‘For me, the Barbican is the ideal location for stress-free living. Almost everything I need can be found on my doorstep, from the gym to supermarkets and bars, as well as some of the best restaurants in the city. I don’t use the car for weeks on end and the gardens are an oasis – it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of the financial district.’ rozeman.co.uk