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Barbican

A vast development in the City of London. To some, it is a forest of tower blocks. For others, there are many exciting features including massed fountains, a cascade, roof gardens, trees growing on columns, great pools and a sitting area which is set below water level. It is a prime example of the Abstract Modern design style.

However, many of the spaces are bleak and draughty. Extensive pedestrian decks cover the parking areas and access roads. The scheme was designed by Chamberlain Powell and Bon in the 1950s and is now almost complete. Visitors joke that it is almost impossible to find one's way about. This has been countered by painting lines on the brick paviors. One can follow them, as Theseus followed his string to escape from the Labyrinth.

The original planting of the roof gardens included lawns, flower beds, trees and shrubs, which required continual irrigation and a high maintenance regime.   In 2013 the planting was revised by Nigel Dunnett to create three ‘Designed Plant Communities’ relating to the amout of sunshine the areas receive: 

1.  STEPPE plantings in full sun.  Mixtures of grasses and perennials that are naturally adapted to dry, exposed conditions.  This is the main planting type across the site.  Very colourful, with jewel-like colours, diverse foliage textures and plant forms.

2. SHRUB STEPPE plantings which combine similar mixes of perennials and grasses to the steppe plantings, but with additional low-density shrubs and multi-stemmed trees, to create multi-layered plantings with year-round structure and interest.

3. LIGHT WOODLAND plantings in part-shade, and where the growing medium depths enable tree growth.  Multi-stem trees, widely spaced create a light, open canopy, with a scattered understory of shrubs, and a diverse perennial ground layer.

Photograph © City of London Corporation
Photograph © City of London Corporation

Silk Street, London Wall, London, Greater London, England, EC2Y 8DS

All year. Daily. Conservatory, on 3rd floor, Sundays 11am to 5pm. Telephone 0207 638 4141, to check that the conservatory is not being used for a function.

Free

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