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A moving glasshouse as a centrepiece for Woolbeding Gardens


The challenge: a kinetic architecture solution for a 143m2 glasshouse

Woolbeding Gardens is a National Trust site in West Sussex, open to the public but still home to Stewart Grimshaw who, alongside his life partner the late Simon Salisbury, restored the home and gardens over a thirty-year period during their lease of the house. Woolbeding’s gardens have been carefully designed to create a journey representing the celebrated Silk Route, from the sub-tropics of China, through Europe across arid terrain and lush pastures to the Mediterranean. The plants represent those that have defined English gardening for centuries, and the centrepiece is an architectural glasshouse – both a nod to the Lord Robert Spencer’s widely acclaimed glass houses of the 19th century, as well as providing a practical solution to housing the tropical fauna.

The Woolbeding Trust put up a grant of just under £11m to cover the design, construction, landscaping and maintenance of the Silk Route and glasshouse, which has had acclaimed designers, engineers, landscapers and construction teams working on the project from the outset. Eadon Consulting were engaged to work on the kinetic architecture of the glass house, providing a solution for the movement of the substantial glass structure in line with the architect’s vision.

The outcome

The glass house is a 143m2 structure that is designed to open and close like a flower, with moving structural sepals 15m in height. The building has been carefully designed to regulate temperature and humidity to provide the right climate for the subtropical plants that it will house. With Heatherwick Studios designing the aesthetics, and renowned structural engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan conceptualising the building itself, the project is highly regarded and

Woolbeding glasshouse open

Woolbeding glasshouse open

its opening was eagerly awaited. Eadon were called upon to design the concept of the mechanical equipment which opens and closes the sepals, providing initial option studies, concept reports and support for the build phase which was undertaken by Bellaport.

Key considerations when conceptualising the movement of such a significant, weighty structure included the need for the kinetic structure to be operated remotely, as well as the requirement for all the parts to move in unison so as to create a feature of the opening and closing whilst ensuring safety of any personnel in the vicinity. As with all Eadon projects, the goal was for a robust, reliable and simple solution, but in this case one that would provide the elegance that the project demanded.

All images by Hufton+Crow

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