Architecture – Set on the edge of the National Trust’s Woolbeding Gardens, part of a historic estate in West Sussex, the Heatherwick Studio’s kinetic Glasshouse blossoms with its ten steel ‘sepals’ glass and aluminium façade. The architecture takes four long minutes to open to create an immense 141 sqm space in the shape of a crown.
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On warm days, the Glasshouse opens its ‘sepals’ using a hydraulic mechanism to allow the plants access to sunshine and ventilation while in colder weather, the structure remains closed, providing shelter to a collection of subtropical species.
Conceived in collaboration with The Woolbeding Charity and the National Trust, the Glasshouse “draws inspiration from the spirit of Victorian ornamental terrariums.” Thomas Heatherwick told Archipanic. It deploys cutting-edge engineering to provide a functional protective structure while at the same time offering a beguiling, decorative element to the new Silk Route Garden.
“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.” Said Thomas Heatherwick. “I think it also speaks of our need to keep creating amazing pasts. Weaving contemporary inventions into the fabric of historical settings and having the confidence to let each one speak to the other.”
Through the ancient trading route connecting Asia and Europe, commodities such as silk were exchanged along with many plant species, including rosemary, lavender and fennel, that were brought to Britain for the first time.
A winding path allows visitors to move through over 300 species and twelve distinct regions of the Silk Road. From Mediterranean evergreens where visitors can enjoy a rare variety of Mullein – Verbascum sp. – grown from a seed brought here by a friend of Woolbeding Gardens, through to the richly scented Gallica roses, now so popular in England but originally introduced to Europe by traders from Persia.
The Glasshouse itself shelters an impressive, rare specimen of an Aralia Vietnamensis, which provides shade for a collection of tender ferns growing alongside umbrella trees, magnolias and bananas.
- The Woolbeding Glasshouse and the Silk Route Garden are open on Thursdays and Fridays from 28 April to 30 September.
Photos: ©Hufton+Crow and Raquel Diniz, courtesy of Heatherwick Studio.