Barbican Conservatory

Photograph © Luke Hayes
The terrace is used for weddings and events © Luke Hayes
Balconies wrap around the fly tower © Luke Hayes
Giant succulents and mature trees by the pond © Luke Hayes

Exploring London’s secret rooms with photographer, Luke Hayes

The Barbican Estate was designed to repopulate the post-war City of London, and was built between 1965 and 1976. Nowhere has its Brutalist vision of utopia taken root more than in the conservatory, which was added later, in 1980, to disguise the theatre’s 100-foot fly tower and improve views for nearby residents.

The tower is surrounded by shallow, impenetrable balconies and a tent-shaped glass enclosure, which houses an exotic collection of tree ferns, succulents, hanging gardens, cacti, ponds and creatures. Taken over by wildlife, it’s a fitting extension to Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s great bulbous metropolis. The space has the climate of a London summer – sweaty and draughty at the same time – but with tropical sounds of birds, machinery, dripping water and the occasional splash in the pond. While the Estate’s labyrinthine walkways are well-trodden, the quiet and artfully overgrown greenhouse feels like a secret, although it’s a popular events space.

The conservatory featured in a series of images of the capital’s hidden rooms taken by architectural photographer, Luke Hayes. He says, “Walking around the Barbican, the boundaries between public and private, between the arts centre and the residential spaces are invisible. When you find yourself climbing an abandoned staircase that ends up on the roof, there’s the feeling that perhaps you’re not supposed to be there, and that it might be someone’s penthouse. It’s that sense of the unexpected that makes these spaces so interesting to document.”

View more of these photographs at

Entrance to the Barbican Conservatory, © Luke Hayes

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