Architect Thomas Heatherwick returned to his architectural roots this summer with Glasshouse, a beautiful kinetic structure that slowly unfurls into the shape of a crown. Heatherwick may be best known for his recent large-scale projects, such as the Vessel in New York City’s Hudson Yards, but Glasshouse recalls some of his earliest career-making works, which were often smaller pavilion-sized buildings and follies that moved or transformed in some way. Located on the historic Woolbeding Gardens estate in England, the sculptural greenhouse references the history of ornamental Victorian terrariums.
Produced in collaboration with The Woolbeding Charity and the National Trust, Glasshouse acts as a spectacular focal point for a new garden that takes visitors on a 12-step journey through a mock Silk Road. The ancient network of Eurasian trade routes played a central role in cultural, political, and religious interactions between the East and the West, and it still influences the designs of English gardens to this day. Some favorite English garden plants like rosemary, lavender, and fennel were brought to Britain for the first time along this route.
Following the garden path, visitors will discover over 300 plant species across 12 regions of the Silk Road, including Mediterranean evergreens and Gallica roses brought to Europe by traders from Persia. Inside the Glasshouse, they’ll find tropical species like umbrella trees, magnolias, bananas, and a rare Aralia vietnamensis. During colder weather, the structure’s ten steel “sepals” remain closed to protect the plants. When it’s warm, the sepals open using a hydraulic mechanism to provide access to sunlight and ventilation.
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