Site History and Significance
An Icon of Greenhouse Architecture
First founded in 1759 on the grounds of a prince’s pleasure park, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBGK) today house the world’s largest collection of plants and fungi, with almost 30,000 living plant specimens alone. In keeping with its core work researching, cultivating, and educating visitors about the botanical world, RBGK maintains strong ecological commitments, from its work in rainforest advocacy to its plan to become carbon neutral.
Kew’s Great Palm House, designed by Decimus Burton and constructed by Richard Turner in 1844, is one of the Gardens’ most recognizable buildings. Known for its elegant walls of glass and iron, the structure was highly innovative for its time and was rooted in methods and forms used in shipbuilding.
Achieving Carbon Neutrality
The Palm House’s iron superstructure is in need of repair, and its Victorian heating system is both inefficient and expensive to maintain. Reducing its carbon footprint would bring the building in line with Kew’s environmental ethos.
To address these issues, WMF and RBGK are rethinking the iconic structure’s entire heating and insulation system. New educational text in the Palm House will also put greater emphasis on the importance of rainforests to the environment as a whole and to the peoples who inhabit them.
Successfully making such an important historic building carbon neutral would be a world first. As such, Kew has the potential to become a model for the energy transitions of similar buildings—not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the world.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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This initial phase of work is generously funded by Hélène Marie and Jake Shafran, the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, James and Clare Kirkman, and Nora McNeely Hurley and Manitou Fund.