One of my favourite places to visit and the place we almost got married in, brings my two favourite things together. Plants and concrete.
I recently visited and was reminded how awesome it is and came away with ideas, inspiration and plans for both my home, and work. I thoroughly recommend it for getting the creative juices flowing. Bring a camera. Bring a sketchbook. And be sure not to leave without visiting the shop.
The Barbican is an epic construction of concrete. An incredible accomplishment of architectural design and for any fan of brutalism it is a thing of beauty.
‘Brutalist architecture is a movement in architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, descending from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century.’ Wikipedia
The Barbican is a cultural and residential centre. A combination of accommodation, shops, a theatre, a cinema, a library, gardens, schools, a museum, exhibitions, bars, restaurants and more – it is like a city within a city (London). It also is home to the UK’s second largest conservatory, and has a wonderful outdoor (concrete) garden full of fountains and split levels to play around.
If you don’t like concrete, and aren’t fazed by the cultural offering there, the conservatory surely will capture your heart.
It’s a living, breathing, slice of heaven. Such an unexpected find in the heart of a bustling city. The conservatory is a peaceful oasis, calm and quiet. You can wander, sit and learn. I love the mixture of people there and what they are gaining from being in the green garden.
There’s children cooing at the fish in the ponds and pointing out their favourite looking plants to their eager parents, students finding nooks to bury themselves in with sketchbook and pencils, wide eyed tourists snapping away with zoom lenses galore, couples wandering hand in hand across the lily covered waters and keen botanists absorbing information on species and eyeing up the cuttings and cacti.
It’s not open every day, just Sundays, and even then it’s only when it’s not being used for an event. Currently there’s a good run of Sundays that it is open but always check the website for any changes.
I really could spend hours there, not only learning about the plants and the trees (there’s over 2,000 species of flora and fauna to appreciate) but also as a haven to relax and chill out in. And if you get hungry – well they’ve got that covered too, with a choice of afternoon tea or other delicious bites off their menu. Unfortunately, as far as I could see, there wasn’t a gluten free option on the afternoon tea (missing a trick there!) but I guess it would be a lot of extra work. However there’s a lot other restaurants, cafe and bar areas to choose from in the rest of the Barbican that have a great offering.
I chose to eat in the very well designed, Barbican Kitchen, with its cool, industrial interior. I loved the mixture of tiles, metal work and wood with great collection of mid century chairs and stools, and some real bold lighting features. It had a great social feel, relaxed but with a really high quality of food which was great value and had some really healthy options. As a pescatarian, I went for the tuna steak (to-die-for) which was from the mix and match salad dish bar so I accompanied it with an asparagus & potato salad and a cabbage coleslaw type mix. Definitely recommend it. I spent around £12 including bottle of water.
Currently there’s a great range of art, music and film to enjoy and there’s regularly new events, exhibitions and shows throughout the year.
As a creative hub it’s a must visit. For shopping it’s irrestible with great stationery, jewellery, prints and books. I just can’t leave the shop empty handed.
And for social, it’s a really diverse place to hang out, learn and absorb the surroundings. I can but imagine how wonderful it would be to live here – not only for the brutalist* and mid century dream of architecture to admire but also to have all this culture and activities on your door step. Although it’s only twenty minutes on the tube for me so I can’t complain!
*‘the word brutalism has intense connotations, even though it’s not actually related to brutality. The word originates from the French béton brut, which means raw concrete.’