Davies Alpine House – Kew Botanical Gardens, England
The Davies Alpine house at Kew is the most recent conservatory/glasshouse addition to the gardens, opened in 2006. The function of the structure is to replicates an alpine climate in order to house flora from such regions.
In the wild, alpine flora are dormant throughout very cold winters, they are protected from extreme temperatures and wind by a blanket of snow. In the spring snow melts providing moisture to stimulate growth and exposing plants to intense sunlight. The growing season is short, thus plants have evolved to flower and set seed quickly. The environs at Kew Botanical Gardens, although cold in the winter, are by no means alpine. The Davies Alpine House was designed to recreate the cool, dry and windy conditions that alpine plants require to exist and thrive.
The glasshouse is 16 m long and 10 m high and north-south oriented in order to present a narrow profile to the sun. The curvature of the east-west sides also helps deflect direct sunlight. The individual panes of glass, however, are flat, not curved, so the sun is directly on a single facet of the cladding at any given time. Cool air is drawn into the structure through permanent openings on either side while warm air is released through vents in the roof. Meanwhile a fan blows air through a concrete network underground, this air is cooled and released into the glasshouse through steel pipes which can be seen emerging from rocks in numerous areas. The panes of glass cladding the structure are 12 mm thick and have a low iron content which allows over 90 percent of light through. A moat surrounds the house which helps to moisturize and cool the air which is then drawn into the house through vents.
Click individual photos below to enlarge…