Blake Tower
Redrow London
 
 
The conversion of a brutalist tower in one of London's cultural hotspots
Our design approach, which references the unique character of the neighbouring estate, gives the apartments a bold personality without being too brutal or extreme.
Photography by Anna Stathaki, Richard John Seymour and Luke Hayes
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Situated on the edge of London’s Barbican Estate, Blake Tower is the fourth skyscraper within this much-admired brutalist enclave. When the occupier, YMCA, moved out of the tower, developer Redrow London asked us to convert it to residential use, giving buyers the first opportunity in decades to acquire a ‘new’ Barbican apartment.
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The distinctive 17-storey tower was originally designed with modestly scaled guest rooms for students and other short-stay visitors. The conversion therefore involved creating more generous and inviting apartments better suited for modern living, ranging in size from studios and one-bedroom flats up to three-bedroom apartments and two penthouses.
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Being part of the Barbican and an important brutalist building meant there was a very rich source of creative inspiration to draw upon. The design approach therefore references the unique character of the neighbouring estate to give the apartments a personality that both works with and respects the context.

The old, cellular spaces have been stripped away and the tower reconfigured floor by floor. The intelligent spatial planning of the original Barbican apartments has been echoed through the use of space-saving kitchen designs, alongside many fitted elements including window seats, wardrobes and storage cupboards. These help to enhance the sense of space and encourage the flow of light.

The modern heritage of the Barbican is referenced in the use of exposed, pick-hammered concrete in hallways and circulation zones, lightened by timber floors, wooden doors and joinery, along with other overtly domestic textures.
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The interior treatment of both communal and private spaces needed to feel in keeping with the spirit of the original building.

Some elements, such as the tilework used in the bathrooms and lobby areas, draw on the graphic nature of the mid-century period. We adopted a confident approach to reinforce the spirit of the building, not least because we anticipated that the kind of people who will be drawn to Blake Tower would want to connect strongly with the Barbican iconography and aesthetic.

The lobby itself features a custom, brass-inlaid screen to one side with an abstract pattern, as well as terrazzo floors and an integrated, fitted bench that fluidly morphs into the concierge’s desk. Splashes of colour offer a contrast to the relatively light palette.
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The bathrooms – with their bespoke, crafted vanity units – are a key design feature which reference the originals.

Our design has sought to soften the interiors while retaining the cold, hard materials from the modernist period. This relationship aims to give the residences a clear identity while ensuring an element of authenticity.
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Brutalism was all about the expression of structure. So, in the true spirit of the brutalist movement, the apartments have been strategically designed to reveal the building’s original architectural anatomy.
 
Simon Kincaid I Partner at Conran and Partners
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Awards
 
 
 
AJ Retrofit Awards
Retrofit Housing Category
 
2017
Blake Tower
Shortlisted
 
 
FX Award
Mixed Use Development
 
2016
Blake Tower
Winner
 
 
Blueprint Awards
Best non public Project - Residential
 
2016
Blake Tower
Shortlisted
 
 
Sunday Times British Homes
Conversion/upgrading, embracing office to residential conversion
 
2016
Blake Tower
Shortlisted
 
 
International Design Excellence Awards
Shows Flats & Developments
 
2016
Blake Tower
Shortlisted
 
 
New London Award
Conservation & Retrofit
 
2016
Blake Tower
Shortlisted
 
 
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