Quinn Architects renovates apartment in London's Brutalist Barbican Estate

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London studio Quinn Architects has designed a minimal interior for this apartment in the city's Barbican Estate, pairing white lacquered surfaces with timber skirting and oak cabinets (+ slideshow).

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

The firm refurbished the apartment for Quinn Architects director Laurence Quinn and his family, aiming to make it more suitable for their needs.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

From a rented workshop in Camberwell, the team set about designing, prototyping and manufacturing every detail in the apartment over a nine-month period.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

Treating the project as a "research exercise", the architects took the opportunity to experiment with materials, fittings and fixtures for the apartment.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

"This interior project is a personal study of living on the estate and, due to the intensity of the design development and a desire to experiment, it was decided to procure the project in an unusual way," said Quinn Architects.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

"Each element of the project has been designed, purchased and procured directly and built using two skilled craftsmen who have been central to the success of the work," they added. "Only the stainless steel kitchen workshop and the MDF two-pack polyurethane paint finishing were manufactured by external specialists."

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

The famous Barbican Estate was designed in the 1950s by British firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, and is one of the largest examples of the Brutalist style.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

The apartment's location within the estate was used as the inspiration behind the interior design, along with a request for well-organised spaces and storage that would respond the family's needs.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

The architects slightly altered the existing plan, and focused on the design of the interior cabinets and storage elements incorporated throughout the apartment.



Room layouts were adjusted only by the repositioning of two doors, which used to clash when they were opened. A door was removed between the kitchen and service room.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

"The 43-year-old interior had become tired and the occupants required a set of spaces and precisely organised storage that would respond to ever-changing family needs," said the architects. "A reductive approach to retiring some original elements was adopted to allow better use of the space, although these decisions were only taken after careful consideration."

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

"The small but intimate scheme is neither the sole preservation of the existing details or a completely new architectural language," they added.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

Details, materials and products are consistent throughout the majority of the rooms, including timber skirting inspired by the house and studio of architect Alvar Aalto in Helsinki, as well as solid oak flooring and door frames.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

Cupboard doors throughout the property are covered in white lacquer. Terrazzo is used in the kitchen and bathroom in reference to the use of the material throughout the Barbican complex.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

"The scheme attempts to show a thoughtfulness and direction of how these important interiors can be updated and modernised while still respecting the original architectural character and atmosphere," said the team. "These new spaces sit happily along side original interiors through a shared knowledge and a close attention to detail."

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn

Last year, design and architecture studio Conran and Partners revealed it was reworking the interior of a 17-storey Barbican Tower, transforming it from a youth hostel into high-end apartments.

Photography is by Rob Parrish.

Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn
Axonometric diagram with floor plan – click for larger image
Barbican flat by Laurence Quinn
Floor plan – click for larger image
  • Jonathan Tuffin

    Best of a bad job.

    • guisforyou

      What the hell does that even mean?

      • Jonathan Tuffin

        It means they’ve made the best they could of a bad job; the bad job being the building’s physical properties. Happy now?

        • scotsims

          Must be nice to be superior.

          • Jonathan Tuffin

            It’s great.

        • eipertti

          Do you mean that the construction is flawed or that the design is ugly? I’ve long been an admirer or the Barbican Estate, I think it looks magical, and this from someone who used to abhor Brutalism.

          If there is a style of modern architecture I dislike, it is the clean look of shining white apartment complexes. The Barbican is exciting and human in comparison, not sterile or alienating.

          • Jonathan Tuffin

            I spent a lot of time years ago in the Brutalist estate of Hulme, in Manchester, and I can’t get past that place whenever I see this kind of architecture. Magical it wasn’t.

  • 竜皐一

    Wonderful. Great urban apartment, it is.

  • Dimitar Pouchnikov

    Ikea furniture within a Dezeen article?

    • Jake Wain

      And?

  • James Calbraith

    The bedroom is a bit Holiday Inn, mundane and unimaginative. But the kitchen and dining room are perfect, though who needs that many cutlery drawers?

    • scotsims

      They’re not all for cutlery storage.

  • Derek_V

    Nice Vitsoe ad…

  • Kay

    Real decent but simple job. It’s evident this was done on a super tight budget but they did the best of what they can and tried to stay true to the Modernist theme. It’s a win in my books.