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Kew’s amazing armadillo takes shape

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Steel erection for a new ‘armadillo’ shaped steel and glass Alpine House at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew has just got under way. The building is formed by two vertical steel arches and two horizontal steel arches fixed into the complex  concrete base which contains a labrynth of tunnels to provide air cooling. The arches are connected by steel cables which will also support the laminated glass panels.

The new structure, designed by architect Wilkinson Eyre and structural engineer Dewhurst Macfarlane, will provide the optimum climate for Kew’s alpine plant collection and is due to open in late summer. “The glasshouse is eye shaped in plan and is about 18m long, 9m wide and 9m high,” says Dewhurst Macfarlane partner Scott Nelson. “Despite its small size, it is a highly engineered structure, which will be aesthetically pleasing when finished, but is calling for some precise construction to meet the structure’s tight tolerances.”

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