Posted September 12th, 2014 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Travels
Comments Off on Fresh from Europe: Tanglewood Tours Conservatories
Alan and Nancy, founders of Tanglewood have just returned from a trip to Europe where they focused on photographing great conservatories and greenhouses. One of the grandest examples is the Schönbrunn in Vienna which was opened to the public in 1882. The elegant beauty of this structure belies the massive amounts of iron needed for the exterior frame. Over 45,000 panes of glass cling to the curved iron girders like skin. This was quite an architectural feat in 1881 and at that time was the largest iron and glass structure in Europe.
Heavy bomb attacks in 1945 destroyed much of the glazing and resulted in many of the plants freezing. Rebuilding began in 1948 and the Schönbrunn was finally reopened to the public in 1953. As you can see from the picture above, even the rivets in the girders lend such an ornate detail to the entire structure.
Capturing such exquisite details of historically significant conservatories is not just a hobby to Alan and Nancy, but a quest to preserve and document for future generations to admire and enjoy. This quest is the driving force behind an upcoming book that Alan has written. They are now in the photography phase, touring and capturing many conservatories – not only in Europe, but throughout America. The book is set to release in March 2016 and will be a very upscale, artful treatment of the history and development of the conservatory with strong emphasis on the lifestyle and modern relevance perspective. It will be chocked full of beautiful photographs and descriptions of key examples.
Below are pictures of a couple of more conservatories that Alan and Nancy recently toured. How many can you name and list where they are? Leave us a comment if you are game!
Dedication: to devote wholly and earnestly, as to some person or purpose. That one simple word describes Tanglewood Conservatories and its ownership – Alan and Nancy, in one nicely wrapped package. Dedicated to building creatively-inspired structures that enhance and amplify the client’s life; dedicated to documenting and recreating the architectural details of conservatories from bygone eras; dedicated to maintaining a high level of quality and customer service; dedicated to being good stewards in business, environmentally and our community. And most of all, dedication to each other as partners in life and business.
As the new marketing manager at Tanglewood I was thumbing through some old files and came across an intriguing article written many years ago as to how Tanglewood Conservatories began. Scanning through the article, I quickly realized that a special story was hiding in a file and now was perfect timing for a ‘revisit’. I hope you enjoy the Tanglewood journey as much as I.
The Prelude to a Labor of Love…
It’s what happens when two people meet; fall instantly in love and everything changes. In the case of Alan Stein and Nancy Virts, falling in love didn’t just change their personal lives, but transformed the direction of their professional lives also.
We are where we are today and who we are today because of one another. Alan & Nancy
Alan had spent years in the housing industry, first as a carpenter, then an architect and then later as a sales professional. Nancy had recently found herself at a pivotal moment in life – a decision to forge ahead and devote the majority of her time and energy in continuing to build on her corporate management experience or regroup and focus on what fed her soul: her artwork. The artwork won and she soon took a job managing a home builder’s office, where most importantly, he provided a large loft for her art studio. Her artwork began to gain attention and she found herself being selected for juried shows.
The two destined pathways converged and collided in 1991 when Alan walked into the builder’s office that Nancy was managing.
It was love at first sight for me…for Nancy it took longer! The minute I met her, I knew this woman would change my life. – Alan Stein
After waiting to call Alan back, they finally met for dinner – the meal lasted for over three hours and they never ate! That night, everything clicked.
Looking back to 1985, Alan and his then-business partner ventured into their own contracting business that sold prefab sunrooms in the Washington, DC area. The partnership eventually proved disastrous. Alan and the partner decided to dissolve the partnership, but each taking an arm of the business – Alan the struggling sun-room portion while the partner took the more profitable contracting division. That decision would prove to work better for Alan in the long run even though the initial outlook was shaky at best.
Although it seemed the sun was setting on Alan’s pre-fab sunroom business, Alan, ever the entrepreneurial sales guy, kept in contact with several builders in the industry. One approached Alan about creating a custom conservatory for a high-end home.
“He handed me a picture of an English conservatory and asked if I could do that, an entrepreneur never says no, so I said sure and took the project on.” – Alan Stein
At this point, Alan and Nancy were dating and evenings were spent discussing the project late into the night. Nancy, still working for the contractor, arranged a visit to England so they could tour manufacturers so that they could better understand the process of making quality conservatoires in the classic tradition.
It just captured my imagination, Nancy said. I became engrossed in the project he was working on.
Home from the U.K., Alan designed and built the conservatory and the client and Alan fell in love with the design. Soon thereafter, the second commission for a conservatory was harkening and Nancy realized this was not a side business, but the business.
A year and a half later, Nancy joined Alan at Tanglewood.
Beautiful Life Amplified
Tanglewood’s story began with a commitment to the history and tradition of the 19th century conservatories. From their first trip together to the U.K., Alan and Nancy have become students and stewards of the tradition and they work hard to capture the intricacy and elegance in all of Tanglewood’s designs.
Fast forward many years from that fateful day in 1991, to a life that has been amplified many times as a result of their business venture together. Building a successful business has enabled Alan and Nancy to experience awesome opportunities such as extensive travel, awards and honors and acquiring many new friends and family. Many great friendships have been forged – close relationships are typically formed with clients over the course of a project. With no preconceived or pre-designed models, a deep relationship is a natural outcome since Tanglewood works closely with each client. Discovering the client’s vision, likes and dislikes, the rhythm of their lifestyle, is paramount so that the conservatory will best meld with how they live and work. It’s hard not to become as close as family!
Alan and Nancy have many memorable clients – but there are some very special ones that leave a deep impression:
One client, now a great friend, has worked with Tanglewood on three projects, with yet another very large project in the discovery phase. He is world-renowned within the medical field and Nancy and Alan have been deeply touched by his nurturing persona. As Nancy remarks, ‘He truly was meant to be a doctor – I have rarely witnessed that level of compassion and caring he has, not only for his patients, but for everything around him – his family, employees, pets and even the plants in his conservatory. His conservatory is essentially his living room and it quickly becomes the favorite room of all visitors!’ He frequently entertains, holding classical music recitals and everyone comments as to how remarkable the acoustics are within the conservatory.
Another beloved client has worked with Tanglewood seven times! He is a veterinarian and she a nurse. Both had demanding schedules and came to Alan and Nancy to help them turn their home in a tranquil haven. She would work very closely with the Tanglewood team; designing many of the interior touches herself, such as a beautiful tile floor in a small conservatory off the master bedroom. Their resulting home and gardens are now flush with beautiful light pouring in through custom-designed stained glass, sumptuous saeple wood and an overwhelming aura of peaceful calm.
A favorite story that is told at Tanglewood involves a husband and wife who were building a new home. They had agreed that each would be able to create ‘their’ own room as part of the construction process. The wife chose to design and build a conservatory with Tanglewood while the husband created a very masculine billiards room complete with a copper ceiling. During the many discussions and design meetings, the husband remarked he was excited to show them ‘his’ room with the pool table and all the other ‘mancave’ accessories. After the conservatory was designed and built, Alan and Nancy went for a visit and they were met at the door by the husband inviting them in to visit his room – the conservatory! Alan and Nancy have yet to see the billiards room!
Travel has also been a very integral component of the growing business. Alan and Nancy have taken numerous trips researching the history and architectural details of the great conservatories of the world – many times documenting them in photographs. As a result of their passion for the great conservatories, Alan has written a book and is currently touring Europe to capture the best photos to tell the story. The book will be published by mid-2015.
Businesses are typically conceived and built to generate cash and fill a gap in the marketplace. While Tanglewood certainly fills what was a large gap – there were no builders that were maintaining the historical accuracy of 19th century conservatories, and Tanglewood has certainly generated cash – what transcends this company above many others is the personal dedication that they exude. They are architects and artists; mentors to new engineers and architects – Alan sits on the board for a local architectural college, and active contributors within the community.
‘I love the uniqueness and the magic of conservatories, we can build anything we can think of and that is what I love about this business. That and being able to do what we love with the person we love – getting up each day and working together to make something beautiful.’ Alan Stein
Comments Off on Tanglewood Travels: Longwood Gardens – A Look Back
Tanglewood’s inspiration is ignited and fueled by our research and visits to many of the historic conservatories throughout the world. We are very fortunate to have the luxury of living very close to many of these historic sites. We are certainly blessed to have several literally right in our backyard – Wye Orangery, Druid Hill and Longwood Gardens to name just a few. Many of Tanglewood clients have also been inspired by various historic conservatories and often ask if we can incorporate some of the distinct architectural details into their design. Alan recently visited Longwood Gardens to shoot pictures of the beautiful greenhouses, conservatory and gardens for his upcoming book on great public conservatories. We thought you would enjoy the history of this amazing property as much as we did.
Originally purchased from William Penn in 1700 by fellow Quaker George Peirce, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA is one of the premiere botanical gardens in the United States. With over 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows, visitors can experience exotic plants and native flora, indoor and outdoor displays and a full schedule of events, performances, seasonal attractions as well as educational lectures, courses and workshops.
Longwood’s ‘roots’ can be traced to the native Lenni Lenape tribe that fished local streams, hunted and planted fields. In fact, many quartz spear points have been discovered around the property. In 1730, George Peirce’s son, Joshua built a brick farmhouse on the property that still stands today. In 1798, the great-grandsons of George began planting an arboretum that soon covered 15 acres. Originally called ‘Peirce’s Park’, it has been open off and on to the public since the late 1700’s and by 1850 had amassed one of the finest collections of trees in the nation. The park became a grand venue to hold family reunions and picnics through the mid to late 19th century.
Early in the 20th century, the park fell out of favor and the arboretum deteriorated due to lack of attention. Passing through several owners, a lumber mill operator was contracted to clear cut trees from a 41 acre parcel in 1906. This threat prompted one resident of the Delaware Valley to take action to prevent the decimation of such an historical landmark.
July 1906 Pierre duPont purchased the farm to save the trees – but his vision extended far beyond just saving the 41 acre tract. The expansive enhancements and improvements that visitors enjoy today can be traced back to the vision and actions of Mr. duPont. Certainly influenced by his family’s long-standing tradition of gardening and funded through his success within corporate America, Pierre DuPont would become one of the country’s most premiere and influential gardeners.
duPont laid out the first garden in 1907 – a 600’ long Flower Garden Walk, which is still in existence today and continues to be one of Longwood Gardens most popular gardens.
Buoyed by the recent successes of the Flower Garden Walk and the subsequent open Air Theatre, duPont was searching for a way to combat the oftentimes dreary winter. A project to extend the original Peirce house, which connected the new and old wings with a conservatory, was devised – Longwood’s first winter garden. Presented to his new bride, Alice as a wedding gift in 1915, the conservatory featured a courtyard with exotic plants and a small marble fountain.
A much larger, grand conservatory was under construction by 1916. The stunning conservatory was opened in 1921 and filled not with the usual choice of exotic species that was all the rage, instead fruits and flowers were used in a decorative manner that emphasized their horticultural importance.
The technology utilized was state-of-the-art for that time period and all systems (heating, water, power) were hidden in tunnels so as not to distract from the views of the glass-covered conservatory. The conservatory is a 4 ½ acre greenhouse housing 20 indoor gardens and over 5,500 types of plants. The conservatory’s Exhibition Hall, with its original sunken marble floors, has been used over the years for special exhibits and events. The floors are typically filled with water to reflect the foliage, but when used for events, the floors are drained.
Over many succeeding years, duPont’s vision and execution of gardens, fountains and musical venues flourished. By the mid 1930’s Longwood had grown from the original 202 acres to 926. After duPont’s death in 1954, the trustees of the Foundation assumed the helm and focused on transforming the private estate into one for the public. New gardens, along with a plant nursery, an experimental greenhouse and a newly created Department of Education were created.
In addition to the public-display cultivation, Longwood Gardens has had a prolific history of propagation and experimental gardening. None of these histories are more interesting than that of the V. amazonica, a freakishly large water lily that inspired and forever changed architecture!
Tanglewood’s next blog will take an in-depth look at how this lily forever changed the course of history and the impact on conservatory architecture. Email us to receive a first sneak peek at this article!
Posted July 26th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in Travels
Comments Off on Tanglewood Travels Chihuly Garden & Glass – Seattle, Washington
Art inspires Art
A Conservatory is the quintessential backdrop to showcase Dale Chihuly’s art. For many, a conservatory, at least in modern times, is a ‘green place’ where one finds the ambiance conducive to a slower pace – a place to ponder and reflect and also admire the collections – albeit plants – on display. His art elevates the plant collections from merely representative of scientific names, genus, species to a transformative energy that transcends organic and inorganic, real and imagined, native and fabricated.
“I want my work to look like it just happened, as if it was made by nature.” Dale Chihuly
Chihuly Garden & Glass opened May 2012 and provides a look at the inspiration and influences – a coupling of culture and horticulture – solidifying that his art is born to live in nature.
An ardent admirer of conservatories & glass houses, Chihuly has visited many notable sites throughout North America and Europe and maintains an impressive collection of books, photographs and vintage post cards on conservatories. Permanent exhibitions of his work can also be found at Garfield Park Conservatory, Franklin Park Conservatory, Morean Arts Center, Oklahoma City Museum of Art and Tacoma Art Museum.
Tanglewood has long held onto the notion that art begets art, the blurring of lines where architecture becomes the art – and the art is the architecture. Tanglewood was honored to design and build a conservatory in Michigan that features a display of Chihuly artwork. Certainly a defining ‘art inspires art’ moment.
Not only do we spend our days at Tanglewood designing and building exquisite conservatories, when it comes time for vacations, not surprisingly many of the TWC team choose to tour famous, public conservatories for inspiration, relaxation and creativity infusions.
Andy, TWC’s technical sales rep, was set to leave for Seattle to attend a family reunion but elected to leave for the west coast a few days early to allow enough time to linger among the fantastic art gardens and sculptures at the Chihuly Garden & Glass in Seattle, Washington.
After meandering through the evocative gardens, soaking up the unique experience unveiled by the coupling of both art & plants and glass art displayed within a glass house, Andy remarked “As you contemplate the literal representation of Chihuly’s work you are inspired to discover the whimsical attributes of the actual physical plant which in turn indulges a deeper insight into the union of the organic and inorganic juxtaposition…it was truly magical.”
Plants themselves are transformed by their new neighbors so that we now see nature in an entirely new manner. Certainly reminiscent of centuries ago when the first conservatories afforded the gentry with experiencing horticulture anomalies that was completely new and unknown to them.
Born in 1941 in Tacoma Washington, Dale Chihuly’s road to mastery began as an interior design student at the University of Washington in Seattle. After being awarded a full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin graduate school where the first glass program had been started by Harvey Littleton, he received his master’s degree in sculpture in 1967. Chihuly then enrolled in the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence and there began his experiments using
neon, argon and blown glass in outdoor pieces. 1968 was a pivotal year for Chihuly – he was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant for work in glass and studied at Italy’s prestigious Venini glass factory on a Fulbright Fellowship. A magnificent opportunity to learn and create with the true masters of glass.
While Andy’s trip was ultimately about attending a family reunion, he highly recommends a long afternoon stroll through the Seattle’s Garden of Glass.
Comments Off on Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Detroit made some beautiful things besides cars.
If you are in Detroit, MI and are looking for something free to do on the weekend, you might want to consider the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, which is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Originally known as the Belle Isle Conservatory, this oldest, continually running conservatory in the United States was built in 1904. The conservatory, designed by Albert Kahn, a German immigrant who learned his craft while working as an unpaid intern for Mason & Rice, houses palms, tropical plants, cacti, ferns and one of the country’s largest collections of orchids.
These orchids were saved and imported from World War II Great Britain and donated to the conservatory by Anna Scripps Whitcomb, who was honored after her death with the renaming of the building in 1954.
Kahn modeled his conservatory design after Thomas Jefferson’s residence, Monticello, just outside Charlottesville, VA. Reinforced concrete was used instead of wood to better guard against fire, let in more light, and to create more interior space. Kahn, while studying in Europe on a scholarship, learned this architectural style (European Modernist).
Belle Isle is a 982-acre, 2.5 mile long island located between Detroit and the Canadian border, on the Detroit River. It is home to many species of birds and small animals. Visitors to the island must use the 2,193-foot MacArthur Bridge, containing 19 arches, to reach the Island’s attractions, which include a casino, aquarium and of course, the conservatory.
Today, many events, including weddings, picnics, reunions, you name it, are held at the conservatory.
Of the five separate sections of the conservatory, the Show house contains a continuous display of blooming plants, including Mrs. Whitcomb’s 600 orchids. Housing varieties of flowering plants from all over the world, the greenhouse has annual flower shows that mark six different flowering seasons of the year. Visitors can experience horticulture from all over the world by visiting this unique island.
To learn more about the Conservatory, please visit the Anna Scripps Whitcomb page, recently added to the Our Heritage section of the Tanglewood Conservatories’ web site.
Comments Off on Emily Dickinson Museum – Conservatory Reconstruction
Emily Dickinson, one of the most important poets in American history, was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts. She lived from 1830 to 1886. Her family was not wealthy but was well-known, in fact, her paternal grandfather was the main founder of Amherst College. After attending school for eight years, starting at the age of ten, Dickinson returned to her family home and became quite reclusive. She was a prolific writer of letters and poetry but most of her poetry was not discovered or published until after her death.
Besides her interest in poetry, Dickinson was also a gardener. She had quite the collection of plants and exotic flowers and began studying botany at the age of nine. In the mid to late 1850s, Dickinson’s father built a veranda with an Italianate cupola and a conservatory for her plants. The conservatory was dismantled in 1916 but the Emily Dickinson Museum has undertaken the project of rebuilding it with a team from the University of Massachusetts Archaeological Services. Some of the original architectural elements of the conservatory, including the lower foundation, were found during an archaeological dig that began in May 2014. The museum also owns several original window sashes, shutters, and a door from the room, as well as the concrete slab upon which the conservatory stood. The reconstruction project is expected to take two years.
One of the neat things about the conservatory is its size. Measuring just 6 feet by 18 feet, the conservatory was not large but according to scholar Judith Farr, Dickinson “was known more widely as a gardener, perhaps, than as a poet;” her poetry and letters are filled with references to plants and flowers and she routinely sent clippings, cuttings, or bouquets to friends with her letters. In a letter to her friend, Maria Whitney, Dickinson wrote, “The little garden within, though tiny, is triumphant.”
One of Tanglewood Conservatory’s projects measures just 6 feet by 16 feet, but as evidenced by Dickinson’s writing, good things can come in small packages. Our California small greenhouse conservatory is similar in its size and positioning of Dickinson’s conservatory; I wonder if the owner knows of this interesting similarity?
Posted June 4th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in Travels
Comments Off on Madrid’s Classy Glass Balconies
People in Spain love sunlight. On a recent visit, I noticed many of the apartment blocks in the capital had balconieselegantly enclosed with glass.
Usually no more than two feet wide, there is only room for a few houseplants and not even a chair. But the iron filigree and glass spaces add a beautiful decorative touch to the streetscape and light the inside of the homes with the incomparable glow of sunshine year round.
The citizens of Madrid also get to enjoy one of the best examples of late nineteenth century glass and iron architecture – the Palacio de Cristal which is located in Retiro Park in downtown Madrid. Perhaps there is a connection between their love of glassed balconies on their homes and their love of the glass Palacio in the park.
These small urban glassed- in balconies are examples of how light and sunshine can easily and inexpensively be brought into a home for the benefit of its occupants. A serious gardener could make great use of the spaces to conveniently fill their home with flowers and even fruit.
A cold winter day in the city could be turned into an indoor tropical paradise. Akin to the ubiquitous “bay” window we are familiar with in this country, the Madrid window goes further in allowing much more sunshine into the home.
These urban “mini-conservatories” are a wonderful way to connect with nature and all her benefits without leaving one’s apartment. A very popular touch in Madrid, look for them in all their wonderful forms if you visit there.
Located approximately 3 hours northwest of London is the improbable contradiction of Alton Towers. Once reported to be the largest privately owned house in all of Europe, its formerly spectacular architecture and acres of magical gardens are now all but overshadowed by a modern day theme park complete with roller coasters, pirate rides and food stands.
The historic house and gardens include a spectacular orangery, formerly one of the finest examples of the exuberant iron architecture which characterized the early nineteenth century, and now relegated to ruin. Like a Monet or Rembrandt left about in the yard slowly disintegrating.
There is a team at Alton Towers working slowly to restore small areas of the once magnificent property however, it is painfully slow and complete restoration is not planned. It is worth the trip anyway.
Posted February 13th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in General, Travels
Comments Off on Fifty-three Years to Build a Cathedral Made of Trash
Imagine starting a building project in 1961. Then imagine spending the next fifty-three years trying to complete that project while having no formal training in architectural design, engineering, or construction. Eighty-eight year old Justo Gallego Martinez has been doing just that. His massive cathedral can be seen on the over 8,000sq/m of farmland owned by his family in Madrid, Spain. His 24,000 square foot “offering to God” has been largely constructed out of salvaged materials such as oil drums, bricks from an old factory, and other “junk.”
Longing to serve God, Don Justo decided to become a monk at the age of 27 and lived at the Santa Maria de la Huerta monastery in the Spanish province of Soria for eight years. However, he developed tuberculosis, and fearing that he would make the other monks sick; he left over fifty years ago and began construction on this building, which is said to be modeled after St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, the White House in Washington, D.C. and other churches and cathedrals. All that seemingly remains to be added is some windows and a roof. However, there are some who think Don Justo doesn’t want to finish his work.
James Rogan, who directed the documentary, “The Madman and the Cathedral” about Don Justo’s project, says:
Justo says his only concern is to finish the cathedral, yet at every turn he has made it impossible for himself to finish it: everything has been started; nothing has been finished. But if the cathedral were ever completed what would he do? He seems to have absorbed the Romantic ideal of the fragment: unfinished works that are historical ruins before they are even finished.
According to Don Justo, he still gets up at 3:30 each morning to continue his labor of love, “an offering to God.” The Spanish Civil War (July 1936 – April 1939) interrupted his boyhood education and he never received any formal training as an architect or stonemason. He says his inspiration came from books about castles, cathedrals and other religious buildings, as well as the Bible itself. He has never had any formal written plans and never asked for, or received permission to build. But the city council of Madrid seems to have looked the other way and has never insisted on building permits but according to an article in Gizmodo, Don Justo is now seeking permits that will allow worship to take place in the building when it is finished. If he ever does finish it!