Extraordinary kinetic greenhouse transforms from a jewel to a crown


High-profile British firm Heatherwick Studio recently completed work on an impressive kinetic greenhouse. Named Glasshouse, the project resembles an oversized jewel when closed, and opens up into an eye-catching crown-like form.

The Glasshouse was created for the National Trust (a charity dedicated to heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), and is located on the edge of Woolbeding Gardens, which is part of a historic estate in West Sussex, England.

Its design was inspired by early Victorian-era terrariums and it takes the form of 10 individual “sepals,” made up of steel, glass and aluminum. The idea is that during colder weather, it remains closed to protect the plants inside, while on warmer days, its facade slowly unfurls using a hidden hydraulic system with a process that takes roughly four minutes to fully complete. This transforms the greenhouse into an open crown-like structure, exposing the plants inside to fresh air and ensuring they are kept an ideal temperature.

“This is a place and a project that literally unfolds,” said studio founder and head Thomas Heatherwick. “You step through this bewitchingly beautiful garden and discover an object that starts like a jewel and ends like a crown, as the Glasshouse slowly unfurls. I think it also speaks of our need to keep creating amazing pasts. Weaving contemporary inventions into the fabric of historic settings and having the confidence to let each one speak to the other.”

The Glasshouse is closed in colder weather to protect the plants inside, and takes the form of a jewel-like shape

Hufton + Crow

The Glasshouse’s interior measures 141 sq m (1,517 sq ft) and is currently used to grow rare and delicate plants, as well as small trees and bananas, and is surrounded by a larger garden. This consists of a 12-step journey through a heavily landscaped area influenced by the ancient Silk Road trading route between Asia and Europe, with over 300 species of plants and trees.

The project took six years of development, construction, testing and planting to complete, and is Heatherwick Studio’s second small-scale project of late, following its Tree of Trees in Westminster. The firm also recently completed work on the larger and more ambitious Google Silicon Valley HQ, in collaboration with BIG.

Sources: Heatherwick Studio, National Trust

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