On the 200th anniversary of Gregor Mendel’s birth, CHYBIK + KRISTOF will bring the historic St. Augustin Abbey greenhouse to life in Brno. As the location where the notorious scientist and father of modern genetics conducted his pioneering experiments, the greenhouse is located in the 14th-century Augustinian monastery’s gardens. After the original building was swept away by a storm in the 1870s, the team aims to return the significant site to Brno’s old city in 2022.
As the team explains, the greenhouse location is sited in the heart of the town, and St. Augustin Abbey houses the remains of the greenhouse where Gregor Mendel spent eight seasons, from 1856 to 1863, cultivating and breeding pea plants in his endeavor to uncover the biological mechanism through which physical traits are passed down from one generation to the next. "Built with the support of the abbot, Cyrill Napp, who sought to establish his monastery as a leading center for scientific research, the greenhouse was erected as an extension of the monk’s outdoor laboratory." The experiments conducted there, although acknowledged only after Mendel’s passing in 1884, are now widely recognized as the foundation stone of modern genetics.
Drawing on the history, scientific legacy and archival materials of the site, and following the original ground plan, CHYBIK + KRISTOF have created a design reminiscent of the original building. "Integrated in the structure and left visible, the preserved foundations are at the basis of the architects’ reinterpretation – echoing the orientation, shape and distinct roof of the greenhouse. While the trapezoidal volume is identical to the original edifice, the reimagined supporting steel structure seeks inspiration from Mendel’s three laws of inheritance – and the drawings of his resulting heredity system." Likewise, the pitched roof, consisting of an outer glass surface, reflects his law of segregation and the distribution of inherited traits.
Architect and founder Ondřej Chybík explains, “The concept of the redesigned greenhouse is deeply rooted in the work of Gregor Mendel. The nodes and branches constituting the steel supportive framing are in direct dialogue with his laws of inheritance, in particular that of hereditary segregation. Building on this notion as well as Mendel’s original drawings, the resulting, highly complex structure pays homage to his legacy. Laid bare by the transparency of the glass roof, the edifice both embodies and exposes his undeniable contribution to modern science.”
With the aim of attracting local and international visitors as well as a professional public essential to preserving the monastery’s legacy, the revived structure acts as a versatile space celebrating Mendel’s work and contributions to modern genetics. The revived Mendel Greenhouse is due to be completed in 2022, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Gregor Mendel’s birth.