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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Alcock

A Guide To The Barbican Conservatory (History & Facts)

What is the Barbican Conservatory?

The Barbican Conservatory is a glass-roofed botanical garden in the heart of London.

Barbican Conservatory

Barbican Conservatory History & Facts

In the centre of London, a short walk from its financial engine in The City, you’ll find a hidden gem of a secret garden, an enchanting conservatory with over 2,000 species of tropical plants, trees, exotic fish and birds.

After Kew Gardens (located in the south-west of the capital), the Barbican possesses the second largest conservatory in London. It’s all to be found within the Barbican Estate, a large complex that was constructed in the 1960s and 70s to transform an area of the capital that had been left devasted by the Blitz in the Second World War. The complex was constructed according to a utopian vision of creating homes for the working people of London. Unfortunately, this vision has not been realised, as the Barbican underwent a dramatic shift in the late 20th century and is now home to many the city’s most desirable and exclusive properties.

Among the flats and the Modernist (or ‘Brutalist’) architecture, the Barbican also comprises an arts centre – a destination for classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. Today, the Barbican Centre is popular both for its architecture and as a destination. Initially, however, the unattractive ‘fly tower’ of the original building provoked criticism. Seeking to mask the tower, architects hit on the idea of a large London conservatory. From 1980 to 1981 it was planted, officially opening in 1984.

It is split into two different sections, also known as houses, each of which has a different feel. The Tropical House is the larger of the two, and hosts the conservatory’s most monumental and sprawling plants, such as the palm trees. The Arid House is more intimate and therefore home to much smaller species such as cacti; it also contains a small, delightful aviary, featuring finches and quails.

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