Kew Gardens’ vast light-filled Temperate House is opening its doors for the first time in five years, after an extensive £41m restoration.
The Grade I-listed glasshouse, which was designed by Decimus Burton and constructed in 1860, has been carefully restored by Donald Insall Associates. The architects have painstakingly dismantled, cleaned, re-painted and re-glazed over 69,000 individual parts of the 4,880 sqm building.
During work, the practice uncovered the greenhouse’s original pale blue and off-white colour scheme, and have used polychromatic stone to replicate this and highlight some of the structure’s unique architectural details.
While cleaning the building’s huge metal framework – which links five interconnected structures – the firm also discovered Victorian casting marks, which had been buried beneath rust. New elements added to the greenhouse were informed by research into original drawings and materials used by Burton.
The architect, who also laid out Hyde Park and designed housing for London Zoo, pioneered the use of cement render at Kew Gardens, using ornate disguises to hide the glasshouse’s more practical elements, such as chimney flues concealed by intricate stone runs.
Temperate House’s resident population of 10,000 plants has now been returned to the building, albeit slightly diminished in size.
‘The time it will take for the newly propagated plants to reach maturity will offer visitors a full and unobstructed view of the incredible metal skeleton in all its glory: a cutting edge sanctuary for plants,’ says Aimee Felton, lead architect on the project.