Considered the greenhouse of the 21st Century, the groundbreaking Alpine House is opening this month in London’s Kew Gardens The innovative cooling greenhouse was designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, who are in charge of Kew’s long-term development plan. The new Alpine House was designed to replace the earlier, less functional, pyramid-shaped Alpine House.
Wilkinson Eyre solved this problem by designing two back-to-back arches, creating a cooling stack effect. Below ground level, air is pushed into a concrete labyrinth for cooling, and then recirculated around the rest of the building with displacement pipes. The resulting form of the Alpine House proves to be graceful and fits organically into the surrounding environment. The north-south orientation provides a narrow profile to the sun while the convex curve of the east an west sides deflect direct sunlight. And in a final stroke of genius, the designers added large mechanical shades that can fan out across the sides of the building when the temperature gets too hot.
The feasibility of the Alpine House would not be possible without the use of today’s technology, including detailed computer simulations by environmental engineers at Atelier 10.
The Alpine House is a model of good environmental design and should be emulated by residential designers thinking of ways to try to maximize light while minimizing temperature.