Heatherwick Studio, in collaboration with The Woolbeding Charity and the National Trust, have unveiled their latest project, a kinetic Glasshouse and Silk Route Garden set on the edge of Woolbeding Gardens, a historic estate in West Sussex. The unfolding structure serves as a focal point to a new garden that highlights how ancient Silk Route has influenced English gardens of today. The structure features ten steel ‘sepals’ with a glass and aluminum façade, which creates a 141 sqm space in the shape of a crown once it opens.
The Glasshouse's design is inspired by the spirit of Victorian ornamental terrariums, highlighting the need to honor the past by "weaving contemporary inventions into the fabric of historic settings and having the confidence to let each one speak to the other".
The Silk Route Garden surrounding the structure takes visitors on a 12-step journey through a landscape influenced by the ancient trading route between Asia and Europe, where commodities such as the eponymous silk were exchanged and many plants species, such as rosemary, lavender, and fennel were brought back to Britain for the first time. The path allows visitors to move through over 300 species and twelve distinct regions of the Silk Road, from Mediterranean evergreens, to the richly scented Gallica roses, popular in England now but were originally introduced to Europe by traders from Persia.
The gardens and parklands of the National Trust are as much about the future as they are about the past. 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. -- Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parks for the National Trust
The Glasshouse itself shelters rare specimen of an Aralia Vietnamensis, which provides shade for a collection of ferns growing alongside umbrella trees, magnolias, and bananas. The structure's engineering provides a functional protective structure while offering a unique, decorative element within the new Silk Route Garden. The ‘sepals’ open using a hydraulic mechanism that gives the plants access to sunshine and ventilation. During colder weather, the structure remains closed providing shelter to a collection of subtropical species.
The Woolbeding Glasshouse and the Silk Route Garden are open on Thursdays and Fridays from 28 April to 30 September, 2022. The project's team includes: Environmental design and Building services engineers Atelier Ten; Landscape Architects MRG Studio; Structural and Façade Engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan Ltd; Glasshouse Detailed Engineering Design and Construction Bellapart; Habitat and Garden Design Consultant Great Dixter Charitable Trust; Main Contractor RW Armstrong; Contractor’s Design Architect: Kirkwood Mclean Architects; and Moving Structure Specialist Eadon Consulting Ltd