With the festive period well and truly behind us, many of us fall victim to the doom and gloom of bleak winter weather, overambitious to-do lists and the ever-dreaded January blues. The skies are grey and the ground is rain trodden with your only aim for a Sunday to avoid answering your door/phone/emails and shut the world out before it all starts again on a Monday. But little did you know, spring has already sprung in London, with summer heat and nature’s beauty in full bloom just a stone’s throw away. Situated in the heart of the financial district, amongst the hustle and bustle of city workers, stands The Barbican Centre’s, Barbican Conservatory. Encased within this Brutalist structure, once deemed “London’s ugliest building”, is a hidden oasis of 2,000 different species of exotic florae, serene water features and a “hanging garden’s of Babylon” effect woven into this concrete jungle.
Opened in 1984, The Barbican Conservatory is London’s second biggest indoor greenhouse (after Kew), where this veiled garden covers 23,000 square feet. Located on top of the theatre’s fly tower, the glass roofed oasis hosts a dystopia of tropical plants, cacti, and koi carp, where you might even catch a glimpse of the terrapins, transported from Hampsted Heath for terrorising resident wildlife!
Once enveloped within this serene environment, you feel an urge to crack open every window and shout from the rooftops, inviting everyone else to join you in this hidden utopia. But then, that’s half the magic of The Barbican Conservatory. It’s like a little secret that only you have discovered. It doesn’t matter that you may be joined by a dozen or so other visitors; it has this charming ability to transport you to your own concealed paradise. Truly on the inside looking out, the muted pedestrians of London seem to race past in a trance beneath you, unaware of the potential hidden within. Lazy Sunday’s were made for this.
In a poetic addition to London’s varied history, this imposing building triumphantly rose from the ashes after the Second World War and went on to achieve a Grade II listing in 2001 due to its architectural interest, ambition and nod to the many artistic wonders it hosts within its imposing walls. A modern sensation so few seem to have unearthed, it really is the perfect escapism for a dull February afternoon, open free to the public on Sunday’s and Mondays.
So, if like I, you are feeling that optimistic New Year feeling withering away, why not lose yourself in this serene detour from city life? Even better, you can book a tour of the two-tiered botanical sanctuary or rally some friends for afternoon tea as part of an added benefit to this secret garden.