Categories ArchitecturePosted on

Brutal Beauty

Could you think of a more appealing place to live than an architect’s newly renovated family home, in one of London’s most iconic buildings? We’ve sneaked into Laurence Quinn’s Barbican tower flat, in one of the City of London’s most famous landmarks.

Could you think of a more appealing place to live than an architect’s newly renovated family home, in one of London’s most iconic buildings? We’ve sneaked into Laurence Quinn’s Barbican tower flat, in one of the City of London’s most famous landmarks.

Built on a site devastated by bombing during the Second World War, the Barbican Estate is a ‘love-it or hate-it’ upscale residential complex constructed in the 1970s. Queen Elizabeth described it as “one of the wonders of the modern world” during its opening in 1982. Two decades later it was voted London’s ugliest building. Today, properties are selling for as much as £4,000,000.


Designed by architects Chamberlain, Powel and Bon in the 60s, it was then the prototype for the future of modern urban housing. The Barbican is London’s best-known example of Brutalism, a style that focused on a building’s function rather than the ostentatious and bourgeois design features of pre-war movements. It takes its name from French term used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete, or béton brut (literally ‘raw concrete’), with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings.


Brutal is, indeed, the impression it gives from the outside. Typical Brutalist building materials were used externally, such as the bush-hammered raw concrete that reveals the rough texture of the aggregate. This is in stark contrast to the welcoming feeling when entering the complex through brick pathways, across landscaped gardens and lakes. This is a car-free, peaceful realm that allows residents to live in a quiet village, right in the middle of the noisy City of London.


In this brutal setting Quinn and his family have been living since 2009. And it wasn’t until now that he’s dared to undertake improvements to such a well-conceived space. And he’s done it.


The flat is located in one of the three 43-storey towers, where he’s been able to continue the radical spirit of the original Barbican interior detailing. Quinn has managed to smoothly combine 21st century materials and colours that stylistically match the original Scandinavian design, which featured simple layouts with luminous and flexible spaces.


His subtle intervention is mostly visible in the respectful redesigning of the kitchen cabinets, where the original white cupboards were replaced with new ones in sleek white lacquered MDF, and in the white tiling and grey Italian limestone used in the bathroom. Both spaces keep the efficient space-saving concept and functional look of the original.


Floors have been lined in oak, matching the enormous windows thus allowing good light to all parts of the flat (except the kitchen and bathroom) and to take the best advantage of the fabulous views. The comfortable texture of the wool and cashmere carpets complement their strategic placement, designed to give each space a special touch of warmth.


Quinn’s Barbican home displays the possibility of respectful and meaningful renovation in an iconic architectural complex, an outstanding and beautiful part of London’s skyline.

Quinn Architects
Rochelle School
Arnold Circus
London E2 7ES
+44 (0) 20 7613 3843


  • Text Carmen Espinosa
  • Images by

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