After five years of restoration work, the iconic Temperate House recently reopened to the public, bringing with it an astounding 10,000 plants — many of which are rare and threatened. Designed by Decimus Burton and completed in 1899, the Temperate House is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse and the iconic landmark of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. To restore the building back to its full glory, Donald Insall Associates was called upon to sensitively renovate the greenhouse and insert modern technology for improved plant cultivation and care.
Appointed as the conservation architects in 2012, Donald Insall Associates was tasked with improving the Temperate House for the enjoyment of the public and creating the “best possible conditions for plants.” This included optimizing air flow standards and lighting levels. During the renovation process — the largest in Kew’s history — all botanical specimens were removed save for nine trees considered too significant to risk moving. The structure was then thoroughly cleaned and then fastidiously repainted, while advancements such as new glazing and mechanical ventilation systems were put in place.
The Temperate House reopened to the public on May 5, 2018. The massive greenhouse consists of 1,500 species spanning different temperate regions around the world from the Mediterranean and Africa to Asia and island floras. Meanwhile, both the internal and external landscaping have been improved with interpretation facilities and a new dedicated education space on site.
“The restoration of the Temperate House has been a complex and immensely rewarding project, recalibrating contemporary understanding of Victorian architecture and the development of past innovations,” said Aimée Felton, lead architect on the project. “New glazing, mechanical ventilation systems, path and bedding arrangements all took their founding principles from Decimus Burton’s own drawings, held within Kew’s archives.”
Images by Gareth Gardner, Thomas Erskine