Finding Inspiration in Historic Steel Conservatories

Posted April 10th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Conservatory Projects, Greenhouses, Pool Enclosures, Steel Structures, Travels, Uncategorized
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How can looking back at historic structures help us build conservatories today?  The answer is actually relatively simple – because they help us dream!

The earliest glass houses date from the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that steel and glass hit its heyday.   The abolishment of the glass tax in 1845 and advancements in cast iron production made during the industrial revolution fueled the passion for exotic glass houses.   The romanticism of the design – the sensuous curves, the play of light from the many angles and multitude of glass – the simple elegance and serenity – the list could go on and on as to the attributes of the historic conservatories.  Let’s take a look at how one historic structure fueled a dream!

Schönbrunn Palace Palm House
The Palm House conservatory is one of four greenhouses that occupy Schönbrunn Palace Park.  The present Palm House was built by metalworker Ignaz Gridl between 1880 and 1882 and was designed by Franz von Segenschmid.  The last of its type to be built in Europe, the great Palm House was designed using the most modern technology of the time.  With a length of 111 meters, a width of 28 meters and a height of 25 meters, the great Palm House is the largest glass house – with over 45,000 glass sheets on the European continent.

What is most interesting about Schönbrunn is that the steel ‘framework’ is actually on the exterior – forming a very unique exoskeleton! Most buildings begin with the structural ‘skeleton’ fitting inside of the exterior ‘skin’.  The ‘skeleton’ provides the framework, holding the building up and the ‘skin’ keeps the building weather tight.  Schönbrunn is just the opposite!  By reversing the arrangement, the steel exoskeleton celebrates the steelworks juxtaposition from utility to an elevation of art.

schoenbrun detail

Even the rivets in the girders lend such ornate detail to the entire structure.  Over 45,000 panes of glass cling to the curved iron girders like skin.

schoenbrunn

Tanglewood Conservatories is currently constructing a pool enclosure inspired by Schönbrunn Palace Palm House.  The client had some very definite design ideas that we discussed during our design meeting – a pool enclosure that mimicked an Irish countryside greenhouse – rustic and pastoral.  However, upon viewing photos of historic structures from 19th century Europe, the client asked to return to the Schönbrunn photos and was completely mesmerized by the concept. Their design vision was quickly and completely changed and now boasted an exterior steel structure and a multitude of glass panes functioning as the skin.  Tanglewood was captivated by the challenge to recreate such an iconic piece of history.  The project should be complete by late fall – photos to follow!

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