Context 144 - May 2015

C O N T E X T 1 4 4 : M A Y 2 0 1 6 9 AIMÉE FELTON Restoring Kew’s Temperate House Decimus Burton’s monumental Temperate House precinct at the Unesco world heritage site of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is half-way through a £36 million restoration project. Lying at the heart of London’s Kew Gardens, in spring 2016 the Temperate House is shrouded in a plastic, scaffold cloche, mimicking many of the plants within the botanical gardens, the metamorphic transformation of winter to spring.Yet the Temperate House has at least one more winter of transformation ahead, to complete the £36 million restoration project for the client Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, prior to the formal re-opening in May 2018. Substantial funding support from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £15 million, a DEFRA dona- tion of £1 million, and a range of private trusts, donors and contributions from the visiting public are allowing for an expansion of Kew’s education programme, and public engagement and participation activities. The 30-month construction period is half-way through, with a handover back to Kew programmed for April 2017. The Temperate House will then remain closed for a further 12 months as it is re-landscaped, replanted and fitted with new visitor interpretation. TheTemperate House, one of the major architectural features of the Royal Botanic Gardens, exemplifies the Victorian approach to collections and glasshouses. Designed by Decimus Burton in 1859, its central block and octagons were complete by 1863, followed in 1897 and 1899 by the north and south blocks.Twice the size of the monumental Palm House at 4,880 square metres and extending to 19 metres in height, the Temperate House is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse.When first constructed it was the largest glasshouse in the world. The site is alongside the 1840s avenue between the PalmHouse and PagodaVista. Immediately to the west of it is the later Evolution House, listed Grade II.The posi- tion of the glasshouse within the gardens has posed some logistical issues during the restoration process. These have been managed with a large enclosed compound providing amenities, café and changing facilities for the construction workers, and golf-buggy-escorted deliveries through the public areas. The Temperate House before work started (Photo: Donald Insall Associates)