The Barbican is notorious for its brutalist architecture – a stark and imposing structure, it conjures up images of high rise tower blocks and impersonal slabs of grey. Yet it’s home to something quite the opposite – if you climb the stony staircase to the third floor, you’ll find a verdant paradise nestled amidst the forest of concrete. This is ‘the conservatory’ and London’s second largest at that, a hidden glass-covered edifice brimming with wild flowers, fish and birds.
Boasting an array of stunning tropical plants it’s reminiscent of a visit to the greenhouse at Kew, only it’s not in an awkward far-flung corner of zone 4 nor is there an entrance fee. In fact I would say it’s a fair bit more exciting than Kew since the overrun appearance makes the conservatory feel like an abandoned city reclaimed by wildlife, full of winding walkways studded with cacti, lush undulating vines married with shocks of pink blooming out of the concrete balconies, and shimmering flames of koi fish darting about the pond.
The child-proof conservatory is wonderful for a weekend stroll with plenty of hidey-holes and exotic plant species to discover, and it’s charm is cemented by the fact that there’s cream tea on offer too!
It also serves as an excellent reminder that a bit of greenery can brighten up even the bleakest of interiors, so much so that I had to make a stop at my local flower stall en route home. The ability of floral pieces to instantly bring a room alive and add a splash of colour is precisely why an elegant vase or fragrant bouquet often feature in Velvet Orange designs. Be it a world class attraction like the Barbican centre, or in the intimacy of our own homes, a well-chosen bloom is always welcome!
The Barbican’s conservatory is open most Sundays from noon until 5PM.
Girl About Town