The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Milton Court

Since April there have been concrete plans to knock down this first phase of the Barbican and replace it with a tower that is even bigger than Citypoint. A Certificate of Immunity is being processed by English Heritage to these ends.

Post-war listing is not very popular and so after years of patiently waiting for this inevitable turn of events and collecting evidence in the building’s defence we have now started on our counterattack. English Heritage who back in 2001 had recommended that Milton Court be listed at Grade II* together with the rest of the Barbican now have our explicit request to finally put this building under historic protection. This is after all an important link connecting the Barbican back to the Golden Lane Estate. Crescent House of the earlier residential development by Chamberlin Powell and Bon is Grade II* listed for precisely this connection. But Milton Court also stands out for its close resemblance to contemporary buildings by Corbusier and especially so for his Shodan House in Ahmedabad, India. There is that distinctive uneven spacing of the windows that is not there at all at Golden Lane or later at the Barbican.

It is a dense scheme with housing, a fire station, the coroners’ court, a morgue and the City Weights and Measures office. The maisonettes are set apart from the public services by positioning them on pilotis above. In the gap left between, a lightweight open staircase rises. The design anticipates the complex interlocking density of the various functions, private and public spaces that have been accommodated in the spectacular environment of the Barbican. But here they are packed within a tight cuboid envelope. Milton Court is linked to the rest of the Barbican Estate via a bridge at podium level. And it is precisely this insulation that makes the site so attractive to the developers that can’t wait to build more than 30 floors above the new and improved spaces for the Guildhall School of Music.

We have had much support from Barbican residents who do not like the new development either and they have even lodged their own campaign to save this building. And now Assael Architects are putting together an alternative scheme for us on a pro bono basis to accommodate the Guildhall School of Music’s expansion plans while keeping the rest of the structure.

Eva Branscome