Design Stories 1.03

Designing for both Past and Future

Conservatories, glass buildings designed to provide a controlled environment for plants, started in the 17th century. The innovations of glass and steel production provided the impetus for more open and grand structures culminating in the 19th century with London’s Crystal Palace. These buildings were typically designed as symmetrical, audacious vaults and domes with absolutely no environmental concerns about the south vs. north light, excessive heat or frost. Gardens just simply adapted.

So the design question became how to attach a 21st century greenhouse space to an iconic 19th century conservatory form?

Our building needed to respect the beauty of the original conservatory it was joining but also create a better, more efficient growing and functioning environment for plants and patrons. The symmetrical layout of the old conservatory was not true north. The design needed to respect the original geometry so we placed our addition parallel. However the main tropical greenhouse’s upper facets twist due south with canted planes that maximize winter sun and minimize summer by being perpendicular to the winter sun angle. It becomes a phototropic roof. A heavy stone wall insulates the cold north.

Natural ventilation is pulled across the surrounding water pools which adds moist, cooler air to the garden spaces.  The pools are heated through building exhaust in the shoulder seasons providing the Victorian Water Platters with a full growing season. A tempered southern porch provides additional space for the busier spring, summer, fall seasons.



  • Como old and new
  • Expansion plans
  • Expansion drawing
  • Expansion structure drawing
  • Expansion plan in profile
  • Expansion drawing exterior supports
  • Expansion drawing of airflow and cooling
  • Expansion drawing heating and cooling