Designed glasshouse unfolds like a flower in just four minutes

Recently unveiled, the firm’s newest project is a 1,518-square-foot kinetic glasshouse that unfolds in four minutes. Sitting at the edge of the National Trust’s Woolbeding Gardens in west Essex, the structure features ten steel “sepals” made with a glass and aluminum facade, which, when opened, resemble a crown. When folded, the structure sits in a pyramidical, jewel-like shape.  

Conceived in partnership with The Woolbeding Charity and the National Trust, the glasshouse serves as a focal point for a new garden that celebrates the ways the ancient Silk Route influenced modern English gardens. Appropriately named the “The Silk Route Garden,” the new plantings which surround the glasshouse invite visitors to learn about the traditional trading route between Asia and Europe, where goods such as silk, rosemary, and lavender were exchanged and brought back to Britain. 

“It speaks of our need to keep creating amazing pasts,” said Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio. “Weaving contemporary inventions into the fabric of historical settings and having the confidence to let each one speak to the other.”

When designing the kinetic glasshouse, Heatherwick Studio took inspiration from Victorian ornamental terrariums that were used to transport plants back to Europe from the Silk Route. The cases were later used to display the flora but were designed to be beautiful in their own right, too, not just containers. 

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