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The Palm House – Kew, London

March 19, 2012

The Palm House is the icon of Kew Botanical Gardens, a massive glass house designed by Decimus Burton and build by Richard Turner in 1844 – 1848. It is considered to be the world’s most important surviving glass house and iron structure. The building was constructed specifically to house palms collected abroad and introduced to Europe during Victorian times.

The engineering, construction, and technology employed to erect this massive structure was borrowed from shipbuilding methods. Having that in mind, the structure does closely resemble an upside down ship hull. The massive open span of the palm house was/is essential for the unhindered growth of the large specimen palms (some of which have now reached the ceiling) and made possible by the use of strong, lightweight ship’s beams.

Between 1955 – 1957 the Palm House underwent extensive restoration during which time planting beds were installed. The boilers and heating system were modified and converted to oil/gas. Between 1984 – 1988 the building underwent a second renovation/restoration and was completely emptied of its plants for the first time. Most of the specimens were moved to temporary glass houses, but some were too large to manage and were cut down. The building was completely dismantled and rebuilt with superior quality glass, re-enforcement and glazing methods up to modern standards.

More photos of Kew to come in a subsequent article… any additional information welcomed in the comment forum.

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