London-based Grimshaw Architects, Arup, and Leicester-based Haley Sharpe Design (HSD) have jointly released renderings for what will become the largest botanical garden in the world. Located near Muscat in Oman, the park will cover over 1,000 acres and house only native species from across the country. Planned for the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains, the site of the future Oman Botanic Garden is 328 feet above sea level and was selected for the dramatically twisting ridges and crags of the existing landscape. Elevated pathways will cross over simulated river valleys, mountains, and desert landscapes below. Visitors will be able to walk through all eight of the country’s natural habitats recreated in one complex. Two separate but linked glass enclosures will hold the more sensitive Northern Biomes and Southern Biomes separately from the others. Representing Oman’s sensitive Northern Mountains region, the Northern Biome will present visitors with a humidity and temperature-controlled facsimile of a terraced mountain scrubland. To the south, the Southern Biome will house a misty, self-contained green forest from Oman’s Dhofar region. Both biome buildings are long, sinuous glass greenhouses that mimic the hills found nearby. Despite being made nearly entirely of glass, the neighboring conservatories have been oriented to passively shade occupants during the day, with additional active shading in place to keep guests comfortable. Other than the carefully managed ecosystems at the heart of the Oman Botanic Garden, the park will also hold a visitor center in addition to research and education facilities. The LEED Platinum project has paid special attention to the water needs of the site as well. In a region of the world where water concerns are a very real issue, Arup was able to design systems optimized for plant irrigation with the least amount of waste possible. Together Arup, Grimshaw, and HSD have provided full services for the Oman Botanic Garden, from master planning to construction design. The project is set to break ground sometime in the near future.
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Neighbors of the recently approved Houston Botanic Garden (HBC), designed by New York–based West 8, oppose the plans, saying that the to-be-built garden will increase traffic in their neighborhoods and prevent neighbors from criss-crossing the site on foot, as is local custom. Right now, the 120-acre site, in the southeastern area of Houston, is home to publicly-owned Glenbrook Golf Course. "The Park Place Civic Club is taking the position of formal opposition," President Larry Bowles told The Houston Chronicle. "Members feel that the garden will disrupt the neighborhood environment that we're used to here and that the open space that the current Glenbrook Golf Course provides will be in essence taken away." The HBG organizers are planning to lease the site from the city, which means that there's extra imperative to keep the public engaged. West 8's plans respond to community desires for connection to the bayou, shady walking paths, access to the outdoors, and space for community events. The master plan will connect the two "precincts" of the garden, named the Island and the South Gardens, with a bridge over Sims Bayou, one of the few bayous in its natural state, that defines the northern border of the proposed park. The bridge over the bayou is part of "Botanic Mile," a wending drive that will take visitors to the heart of the park, an arrival plaza in the South Gardens. The design had to be hurricane- and flood-proof: Landscaping will elevate the site's topography to bring it outside of the 100-year floodplain. Rounding out the program are a classic glass conservatory for exotic plants, as well as amenities like a cafe, visitor's center, lecture hall, and events pavilion. With a goal of opening in 2020, the group has raised $5 million already, and aims to raise $15 million through 2017. Construction on the project's first phase is expected to begin in 2018. Tomorrow, a public meeting will be held to discuss plans for the HBG. Adriaan Geuze, co-founder and principal of West 8, will be on hand to answer residents' questions.
The glasshouses are comprised of 893 unique laminated glass panels framed by over 1.25 km of steel mullions.Designed by Heatherwick studio and situated on an industrial site of production since 900AD, Bombay Sapphire’s new distilling operations are distributed into a campus of 23 restored buildings, organized around a widened river and central courtyard. The BREEAM 'outstanding' rated project features two bulbous structures that seemingly float on the river, physically connecting Bombay’s distilling operations to their historic site. Eliot Postma, project leader at Heatherwick studio, cites Britain’s history of glasshouse structures as inspiration for the project: “Modernism has a tendency to flatten buildings, in contrast to the Victorian era’s obsession with three-dimensional shapes and curved domed forms, where a combination of glass and steel is omnipresent. We are quite interested in the dynamism that mullions and steel work might give to a glass facade.” A turning point in the design came with the discovery that excess heat was being produced by machinery through the distilling process. Postma and his team were able to capture this heat, pulling it into the new glasshouse buildings where it was used to grow Mediterranean and tropical plants used by Bombay Sapphire in their trademark gin recipe. Postma calls this an “environmental loop” which is formally represented through a linear reading of the steel mullions, flowing outward, through the still house before landing delicately on the river. Heatherwick studios worked with engineers and contractors to design a self-supporting structural system comprised of laminated glass panels clamped to a rolled steel frame. The geometry of the building envelope was continually refined into the construction phase, ultimately arriving at a solution that balanced material properties with structural requirements. One major problem the design team encountered early in the project was formal gesture of a glass dome introduced highly complex doubly curved surfaces. This became a major constructional problem the design team focused on throughout the development of the project, lasting into the construction phase. Through iterative design models, the team was able to enhance the structural performance of the envelope by pleating the dome form. Additionally, the team optimized their design to work within a specific method of laminated glass panel manufacturing, requiring each panel to be rationalized into a singly curved surface. The assembly process began by erecting a patchwork of steel framework and temporary cross bracing from the ground up. Upon completion of the steel structure, the cross-bracing members were removed one by one as the custom glass inserts were installed. The spirit of this project - its integral connection to the land – is evident in Heatherwick’s upcoming planned projects. On the outcomes of this project, Postma concludes, “This is one of the more complex glass structures that has been constructed. The studio is very interested in how glass can be used as an expressive material in its own right, as a way of creating form out of glass. There is a legacy of these glass houses in our studio today. Seeing the potential of curving glass and its limits and how that can be done reasonably cost effectively to really create quite elaborate form is something that we’ll continue to do as the studio progresses.”
Wonders of the World: Ashikaga Park in Japan begets a fairytale dreamscape with thousands of dripping wisteria blooms
If marveling at Spring’s fledgling flora will usher in warmer weather quicker, here’s something to ogle. The wisteria blooms at world-famous Ashikaga Park, located 50 miles from Tokyo, Japan, gives New York City’s botanical garden a run for its money with its live hanging curtains of cascading petals that render a fairytale-like dreamscape. The park is home to Japan’s largest and oldest flowers, a cultural icon locally known as fuji. What is now a panorama of pastel petals began as four giant wisteria vines in 1996, which have since grown to cover 11,000 square feet. The carefully pruned blooms hang from trellises and are grouped in clusters, and with proper manicuring, can grow upwards in tree form rather than climb surfaces. Related to the pea and native to North America, China and Japan, the climbing plants can be seen in their best light from mid-April to mid-May, when tourists from all over the world throng the park. The 291 foot-long Tunnel of White Wisteria envelops visitors from all sides, while the Giant Wisteria is a living umbrella whose multi-colored shade spans 118 by 118 feet. Meanwhile, the Yae-fuji wisteria trellis of purple blooms resembles hanging grapes, but the main attractions are the white wisteria “Waterfall” and the yellow Kibana-fuji. One hundred and sixty of the wisteria plants are more than 60 years old, while one plant has reputedly attained the tender age of 144. Fuji start off as light pink blooms, which then become purple, white, and then yellow. Beneath the surface, 260 tons of charcoal is buried, which fertilizes the soil and helps to purify the air much the way ash from a newly-erupted volcano yields richer earth. An awe-inspiring experience redolent of scenes from Avatar, the park admits adult visitors for around 1,000 yen, depending on the season.
The picturesque Longwood Gardens outside of Wilmington, Delaware has announced a $90 million plan to revitalize its 83-year-old fountain garden. The expensive undertaking will include replacing the fountain’s aging electric and plumbing infrastructure, restoring limestone reliefs, installing new plantings and pathways, and improving guest access to the garden. The historic renovation is being led by Beyer Blinder Belle with West 8 overseeing the garden’s public space design. When it reopens in 2017, the refurbished five-acre Fountain Garden will have a new system of water jets to create a more dynamic water choreography—think the Bellagio. These new jets won't just be agile, they will be powerful, capable of pushing water 175 feet high—topping the current system by 45 feet. There will also be a colorful LED lighting system to highlight all of the fountain's new tricks. Fluidity Design Consultants is behind the fountain's revamp. The renovation of Longwood Gardens will also include the reopening of the south wall which has 20 wall-mounted fountains, new seating areas, a renovated Pump House lobby, and a trellis bride that connects with the Fountain Terrace. “Our founder Pierre S. du Pont created the Main Fountain Garden for the enjoyment and delight of his guests at Longwood. Over the past eight decades, they have become a beloved part of our grounds,” said Longwood Gardens’ Executive Director Paul B. Redman. “The Gardens and its Board of Trustees have been planning for the revitalization of these iconic fountains for many years now. We are preserving Mr. du Pont’s legacy and adding to it through beautiful new plantings, the creation of new spaces in which to relax and reflect, and improved accessibility so guests can walk freely among the fountains.” Groundbreaking is expected to start in mid-October.