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The world’s most spectacular cooled conservatory

It would seem that it’s not just English conservatories such as Chatsworth and Crystal Palace that bring notoriety to its designers. The Gardens by the Bay in Singapore scooped a massive 16 awards including:

  • The coveted RIBA Lubetkin Prize for best new International building
  • The Landscape Institute Awards for Climate Change Adaptation
  • World Building of the Year

The £350m cooled conservatories stand amongst a breathtaking expanse of three waterfront gardens with the two conservatories placed in one of the Bays. The judges were captivated by the extraordinary innovation of structural design and environmental management, with judges applauding the design team for pushing the boundaries of environmental and design.

The designers

The landscape architect, Andrew Grant of Grant Associates, was handpicked for the work he had completed at the Alpine House at Kew Gardens. He was aware of the difficulties in creating an atmosphere suited to healthy, thriving plants and more importantly how to implement the workings around this.

Along with the stunning architecture by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, ingenious environmental and structural engineering by Atelier One and Atelier Ten, the completed structure tells the story of plants in all-weather ‘edutainment spaces’. What was important to the project was: “Highlighting the flora of those environments most affected by climate change”.

The design

The purpose of a cooled conservatory is to maintain an even temperature throughout the differing outside temperatures, and for most conservatories, it’s a simple case of adding glazing in winter and sunshades in the summer – but for a building that covers 20,000m², a very different approach was needed. The designers went one step further and produced carbon neutral conservatories! A lot of this was achieved by positioning the plants and the people in strategic areas.

The conservatories’ bobble shape offers maximum enclosed space with minimum surface area. The surfaces are responsive with automatic blinds that close off exposure to the sun, keeping the temperature level.

Perhaps the most innovative (some would say cunning) detail is the energy source. With no option for water, wind or solar to generate power to cool the conservatories they realised that the solution was literally lying right under their noses. The rain trees that run alongside all the roads are regularly pruned, with the branches being sent to waste. An on-site biomass boiler was built and consequently, the discarded trees are now the source of energy to cool the conservatories.

The conservatories

Inside the buildings you can find:

  • 226,000 plants from every continent except Antarctica
  • 1.2 hectare Flower Dome replicating the Mediterranean climate
  • Giant flower field showing the changing of seasons
  • Raised walkways through the exotic plants
  • Cloud Forest that recreates the cool mist of Tropical regions
  • 35 metre high mountain- with waterfall

The Flower Dome not only houses plants from Mediterranean regions but also features olive groves, lavender fields and giant baobab trees. The Cloud Forest’s mountain not only houses lush vegetation and a 35ft waterfall but also contains a series of tiny holes from which air emanates, cooling the plants.

One of the more interesting features are the 18 solar supertrees. Thousands of plants with photovoltaic (solar) cells cling onto the tree trunks harvesting solar energy. A truly eco structure.

There is no doubt that these two curvilinear conservatories have captured the essence of the glass house potential, and although you may not set your sights on a sky high mountain with matching waterfall, it can be just as rewarding to sit by a couple of rubber plants sipping a nice cool glass of something bubbly.

[Photos by chinnian]