Mixing function and form, Heatherwick Studio has created a stunning kinetic structure at the UK's Woolbeding Gardens. Nestled in a historic Sussex estate, Glasshouse is a glass and aluminum structure that unfurls into a crown. This beautiful marriage of art, architecture, and engineering was inspired by Victorian terrariums and is a focal point of the estate's homage to the Silk Road.
The innovative structure uses a hydraulic mechanism that allows it to open in just four minutes. When closed on cold days, Glasshouse provides shelter for a selection of subtropical plants. And on warm days, when its petals are open, it allows the plants to get ventilation and exposure to the sun.
“This is a place and a project that literally unfolds,” shares architect 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.”
Glasshouse takes center stage at the 18th-century estate, which is now owned by the National Trust, adding a touch of modernity while still blending into the environment. Surrounding the Glasshouse is a garden steeped in history. The Silk Route Garden is a tribute to the ancient trading route between Asia and Europe. Over 300 species of plants from 12 regions fill the garden in order to tell the story of this important trade route.
In fact, nestled within Glasshouse is a rare specimen of Aralia Vietnamensis, which is native to southwest China, as well as magnolias, umbrella trees, and bananas. Also included in the garden are now-familiar species that were first introduced to Britain thanks to the Silk Road. These include rosemary, fennel, and lavender among other species.
“The gardens and parklands of the National Trust are as much about the future as they are about the past,” shares Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parks for the National Trust. “The amazing Heatherwick Glasshouse in the new Silk Route Garden is a fantastic example of this – a wonderful reminder of the historic horticultural legacy we are all so connected to in our gardens today, and simultaneously providing a symbolic reminder of our commitment to and belief in tomorrow.”