BarbicanNeighbors

  • Photography by Aya Sekine
  • Styling by Naoki Ikeda
  • Hair & Makeup by Victoria Poland
  • Text by Miyuki Sakamoto
  • Coordination by Ryoko Uyama
  • Photography by Aya Sekine
  • Styling by Naoki Ikeda
  • Hair & Makeup by Victoria Poland
  • Text by Miyuki Sakamoto
  • Coordination by Ryoko Uyama

The Barbican Estate is a residential complex in Central London, completed in 1976. Its iconic brutalist architecture is a city landmark. Comprising twenty structures, the complex has around 2,000 flats, in over 140 square footage and layout combinations. Optimized for residential living, the complex was built to accommodate a variety of lifestyles and remains a sought-after place to live.

What makes its atmosphere so peaceful and welcoming, even with so many inhabitants, are the pockets of greenspace, ponds equipped with fountains, sports facilities, and tenant-only gardens. These spaces give residents a variety of places to spend their time, whether on their own or gathering in groups to mingle.

The premises also include essential businesses and services like a hair salon and medical facilities. Among them is the organic grocery store, Geranium. From culinary basics to more upscale fare, the shelves of the shop are lined with items handpicked by the owner, Marianne, whom residents stop by and chat with as part of the shopping experience. The store gets its name from the geraniums raised by so many Barbican residents on their windowsills. These flowers impart lots of color to the space.

Outfitting residents of the complex in the latest from UNIQLO, we stopped by for a chat about the place that they call home and how they spend their days.

Stephen
  • Over Shirt Jacket
  • Suede Chukka Boots
Mariam
  • W’s Double Face Chester Long Coat
Chris
  • Balmacaan Coat
  • Suede Chukka Boots
Molly
  • W’s Brushed Jersey Shirt Jacket
  • Cashmere Scarf
Elizabeth
  • W’s Relaxed Tailored Jacket
  • Premium Lambswool
    Crew Neck Long Sleeve Sweater
Tom
  • Single Breasted Coat
Diana
  • Comfort Jacket
  • Cashmere Scarf
Brendan
  • Windproof Outer Fleece Long Sleeve Jacket
Fausto
  • BLOCKTECH Shell Jacket (3D Cut)

Neighbor 1

Tom Morris

Editor / Journalist

  • Comfort Jacket
  • Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Ultra Stretch Skinny Fit Color Jeans
  • Leather Combination Stretch Belt
  • Colorful 50 Socks

1. Tom’s space is decorated with souvenirs from his world travels. This tapestry was purchased at a market in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, on a visit several years ago. 2. Tom likes art that has a pleasant handmade feel as well as strength and a unique composition. 3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mug, Tom’s favorite since age six. 4. Happi coat found at a Harajuku market, on a visit to Tokyo. 5. Tom jokes that the rooms get so much light that he “could sunbathe in the summertime.”

“If you need a hand, someone is always there to help.
That’s the Barbican way.”

Nine years back, while searching for housing, Tom was so charmed by a visit to the Barbican Estate (“Barbican” below) that he decided it was time for a change. This flat could not have been more different from the Victorian building in North London where he had been living, but Tom adapted to life in the modern environs much more quickly than expected. “Since then, old-fashioned brick spaces like the one I used to live in have started feeling a bit strange to me!”

Tom once wrote a piece on residents of Barbican who have lived in their apartments since just after construction was completed. When he was looking for people to interview, neighbors caught wind of the story and started telling him who he should talk to. “Even living in the same building, most days you don’t cross paths with that many other residents, but if you need a hand, someone is always there to help. That’s what the Barbican neighborhood is all about.” The perfect level of proximity.

1. Tom’s space is decorated with souvenirs from his world travels. This tapestry was purchased at a market in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, on a visit several years ago. 2. Tom likes art that has a pleasant handmade feel as well as strength and a unique composition. 3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mug, Tom’s favorite since age six. 4. Happi coat found at a Harajuku market, on a visit to Tokyo. 5. Tom jokes that the rooms get so much light that he “could sunbathe in the summertime.”

Neighbor 2

Molly & Chris Pardoe

PhD Student / Artist (Molly) & Musician (Chris)

“Barbican lets us experience London firsthand,
from the middle of the city.”

Last year, Molly and Chris moved from their old neighborhood to Barbican. “Rather than just go down the block, we wanted the excitement of a totally new place.” For this couple, Barbican was the ideal choice. But at the time, London had just entered its first lockdown. “The pandemic sent people away from cities, out into the suburbs and the country. What drew us to Barbican, in the middle of the city, was the chance to watch London firsthand as it transitions through the hard times and along to recovery.”

As artists, Molly and Chris couldn’t be happier with the location. “Barbican Concert Hall, where Chris actually performed once, is located in the complex. Lots of my favorite galleries are within walking distance as well,” says Molly. The nightlife of the West End is just a step away, while the trendy shops of East London are fairly close too. These two could not feel more at home in Barbican.

  • W’s Souffle Yarn V Neck Long Sleeve Cropped Cardigan
  • W’s Cotton Gather Long Sleeve Shirt Dress
  • W’s HEATTECH Socks (Set of 2)
  • W’s Comfeel Touch U-Cut Flat Shoes

Molly and Chris in their tastefully appointed flat. The large oil painting hanging on the left is one of Molly’s creations. The coffee table is stacked with color indexes and books on food, in keeping with their gourmet lifestyle.

  • Souffle Yarn Middle Gauge Half-Zip Long Sleeve Sweater
  • Extra Fine Cloth Striped Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Slim Fit Chino Pants
  • HEATTECH Wide Ribbed Striped Socks
  • Corduroy Washable Room Shoes

Fitting right in with the interior, Chris’s piano is actually a recent acquisition from a neighbor.

Neighbor 3

Mariam Bergloff

Composer

  • W’s U Low Gauge Crew Neck Long Sleeve Sweater
  • W’s Ultra Stretch High Rise Leggings Pants
  • Cashmere Scarf
  • W’s Regular Socks (Set of 3)

1.2. Replete with famous items like a Kartell “Bookworm” bookcase, a George Nelson Ball Clock, a Steiner Paris sofa, and Heals fabric hung like a tapestry, Mariam’s living room is a veritable museum of design. 3. The staircase makes good use of steel handrails to create a wide-open environment. Linking the workspace on the upper level with the living area below, the staircase lends the warmth of wood to the interior.

“This is my urban sanctuary.”

Mariam is a huge fan of design from the 1950s through the 1970s. “For ages, I dreamt of what it would be like to live in Barbican. The whole mirage created by the towers, the balance between inorganic concrete and lush greenery, the labyrinthine walkways connecting the rows of structures. And if that wasn’t good enough, having an arts venue around the corner makes this place hard to beat.” One year ago, Mariam fulfilled her dream and took up residence. To commemorate the start of her new life, she had the floors redone and the walls painted, finishing off her dream home with lighting and furniture that suited her personal style.

The “sounds of Barbican” have been a major inspiration for her work as a composer. “I’m so fascinated by the sounds of traffic or construction just outside, the chirping birds, and the leaves on the trees, even the sounds of people coming and going. Sometimes I’ll record it.”

When folks have questions about living in the complex, an answer is just a click away, on the message board for residents. “This place is my urban sanctuary.”

  • W’s Relaxed Long Sleeve Sweatshirt
  • W’s Smooth Cotton Shirttail Hem Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • W’s AIRism UV Protection Active Soft Leggings
  • Pile Striped Socks

1.2. Replete with famous items like a Kartell “Bookworm” bookcase, a George Nelson Ball Clock, a Steiner Paris sofa, and Heals fabric hung like a tapestry, Mariam’s living room is a veritable museum of design. 3. The staircase makes good use of steel handrails to create a wide-open environment. Linking the workspace on the upper level with the living area below, the staircase lends the warmth of wood to the interior.

Neighbor 4

Elizabeth Evans &
Stephen Rothholz

Knit Designer (Elizabeth) &
Accessory Designer (Stephen)

  • Elizabeth
  • Light Weight Low Gauge Ribbed Crew Neck Long Sleeve Sweater
  • W’s Sweat Pants
  • W’s HEATTECH Socks (Set of 2)
  • Easy Slip-On Shoes
  • Stephen
  • Cashmere Crew Neck Long Sleeve Sweater
    (Color not available in Japan),
  • Corduroy Relaxed Ankle Pants
  • Pile Socks
  • Washable Room Shoes

1. As a knit designer, Elizabeth has collaborated with legendary British brands like Paul Smith and Margaret Howell. 2. Sunglasses and other accessories that Stephen helped design have been included in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3.4.5. The interior is decorated with an assortment of furniture and art that speaks to the couple’s eye for beauty.

“Every family here has their own story, their own lifestyle.
Looking outside is like watching a movie.”

“When I was still in art school, I stopped by Barbican for a viewing, when it was still under construction. I was deeply intrigued with the style of the buildings, but I never thought I’d wind up living here,” says Stephen. Even for an open-minded student of design, a concrete block apartment building was a far cry from the standard townhouse made of brick. But later on, once he had seen the inside of a flat, his thinking changed entirely. “The bright space is enhanced by a smart layout. I couldn’t believe a space like this existed.”

For her part, Elizabeth briefly considered leaving the area, when they moved into this flat from another part of Barbican about two and a half years ago. But this was where her friends lived, and the ease of access to all parts of London made it hard to leave the place behind. “I think we made the right decision,” she says.

“Every single set of windows is a different family, with their own story and their own lifestyle. We’re surrounded by gardens and playgrounds, with London spreading off in all directions. Looking outside is like watching a movie. We love that about living here.”

1. As a knit designer, Elizabeth has collaborated with legendary British brands like Paul Smith and Margaret Howell. 2. Sunglasses and other accessories that Stephen helped design have been included in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3.4.5. The interior is decorated with an assortment of furniture and art that speaks to the couple’s eye for beauty.

Neighbor 5

Diana Olifirova

Cinematographer

“This place is really special. Along with giving me ideas for my work,
it has a wonderful neighborly environment.”

Diana leads a busy life, working as a cinematographer. Enamored with the contrast between light and shadow, the art, and the sounds of people going about their daily lives, she found a perfect home in Barbican. “All the buildings here are dynamic and dramatic, but also incredibly simple. I’m charmed by how many different faces this place has. It’s always helping me come up with new ideas. I’m really into living here. It brings me so much joy.”

Though generally Diana spends her days off shooting her own films at favorite spots in Barbican, lately she has been making time to volunteer. “Over the past year, I’ve become more aware of the importance of fostering connections with a place.” Volunteering has led to fruitful interactions with her neighbors. “I’ve rediscovered the variety of unique personalities that can be found here. It reminds me of how wonderful this community really is. I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

  • W’s Soft Stretch Long Sleeve Pajama Dress (Striped)
  • W’s HEATTECH Bra Sleeveless Top
  • W’s Soft Stretch Long Sleeve Pajama Dress
  • W’s Extra Fine Merino Ribbed Turtleneck Long Sleeve Sweater
  • W’s Peg Top High Rise Jeans
  • W’s Regular Socks (Color Nep, Set of 3)
  • Cotton Canvas Lace-Up Sneakers

1. A balcony outside the bank of windows that span the front wall of the flat. Caring for plants is one of Diana’s hobbies. 2. Diana is fond of futuristic interiors. Each piece of furniture was carefully selected with this aesthetic in mind. The “Dancing” sign behind her, among her favorite objects, was custom-made. 3. Cabinet where Diana stores odds and ends, along with several cameras.

Neighbor 6

Fausto Morell-Ducos &
Brendan Macdonald

Doctor (Fausto) & Theatremaker,
Dramaturg and Theatre Critic (Brendan)

  • Fausto
  • Fleece Full-Zip Long Sleeve Jacket
  • Soft Touch Crew Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Utility Work Pants
  • Argyle Socks
  • Cotton Canvas Slip-On
  • Brendan
  • PEANUTS Long Sleeve Sweatshirt
  • Slim Fit Jeans
  • Slub Half Socks
  • Cotton Canvas Lace-Up Sneakers

1. The baseball on the bookcase is a memento from Fausto’s youth, when he played catch with his father. In his native Dominican Republic, baseball is the most popular sport. 2. The tiled walls, sink and faucets are all original, from the time of construction. 3. Window in the hallway that connects the rooms. 4. In this house, light plays the starring role. To maximize its potential, the interior has been kept as simple as possible. 5. The balcony is L-shaped. When the weather is fine, the two enjoy their tea and meals outside.

“This place is like a little town unto itself,
containing all these different lives and so much history.”

Take the elevator up to the sixth floor, then walk up one more flight of stairs. Fausto and Brendan live in one of the penthouse apartments topped off with semicircular windows, a Barbican signature. Not only does the space get light from three sides, the kitchen and the bathroom catch that extra bit of sun through high windows by the ceiling, setting the entire space aglow. The plants in the flat, raised lovingly by Fausto, who has the green thumb, spread their leaves and soak up the natural light.

Their balcony looks out over the heart of Barbican. “In addition to housing all these people, the complex also contains gardens and tennis courts for the residents, as well as an historic church and even a section of the London Wall, left over from the Roman Empire. It’s like a little town unto itself.”

After five years in a different flat in Barbican, the two were feeling cramped and moved into this space last year. When asked why they had stayed in Barbican, they matter-of-factly answered that “it’s close to work for both of us,” but for them, this “little town” must be a truly special place.

1. The baseball on the bookcase is a memento from Fausto’s youth, when he played catch with his father. In his native Dominican Republic, baseball is the most popular sport. 2. The tiled walls, sink and faucets are all original, from the time of construction. 3. Window in the hallway that connects the rooms. 4. In this house, light plays the starring role. To maximize its potential, the interior has been kept as simple as possible. 5. The balcony is L-shaped. When the weather is fine, the two enjoy their tea and meals outside.

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