Barbican is a three dimensional jigsaw. Here you don’t know where the ground level is, for there are multiple ground levels. It’s not predicated on buildings sitting on a street or an open space. It’s all about buildings and landscape interlocking. You look up, you look down, you look sideways and they all have a convincing claim to be the effective terra firma. The total effect is that the buildings don’t so much stand as meld into various levels of landscape. And what landscapes. The squares of grass and trees are some of the most handsome in London, in the tradition of shared spaces like those of Notting Hill and Maida Vale without streets and traffic, and with the bonus of public pedestrian spaces and routes overlooking them. The lake, however, is unique – gushing down a waterfall at one end, tranquil in front of the City of London School for Girls at the other, and extending to fountain basins in front of the Arts Centre.
The Barbican has this sheer physical joy – what architecture can do with long horizontal buildings combined with tall vertical ones. These are still some of the most handsome residential buildings in London. The horizontal ones are the quintessence of horizontality and repetition. The verticality of the towers is equally emphasised. None have been bettered. There’s something about the three towers – so smouldering, and craggy, and darkly dramatic. The most elemental habitations, the generosity of the balconies clear in the idiosyncratic silhouettes.”
– Piers Gough: Foreword, in: Elain Harwood: Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. The Barbican and Beyond, London 2011, p. VII-IX