Built between 1965 and 1976, the Barbican Estate was designed to repopulate the post-war City of London. 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 residents.
The concrete fly-tower is surrounded by shallow balconies and a tent-shaped glass enclosure. Inside, overgrown walkways pass through an exotic collection of tree ferns, succulents, hanging gardens and cacti. Despite the tropical sounds of birds, dripping water and occasional splash in the pond, the space has the climate of a London summer – humid and draughty at the same time.
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.”
Labyrinthine and semi-public, it’s a fitting extension to Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s great bulbous metropolis. View more of these photographs at www.lukehayes.com.