Bringing the outside in: Architects build spectacular worlds under glass

Updated 30th August 2016
View gallery
14 Pictures
glasshouse amazon
Bringing the outside in: Architects build spectacular worlds under glass
"The yearning for nature is really strong, and particularly if you're a city dweller, it's even more important."
Jim Eyre, one of the founding directors of WilkinsonEyre, speaks as an architect who can attest to the power of nature within an urban environment.
He is part of the team responsible for creating the Cooled Conservatories at the award-winning Gardens by The Bay urban planning project in Singapore, one of the more recent examples of the enduring appeal of botanical glasshouse structures in modern architecture. Eyre says after the success of Gardens by the Bay, the firm has received requests for similar projects, which may be emblematic of a wider trend.
Safdie Architects plans for Jewel Changi Airport, scheduled for completion in 2018, promise a 40-meter (131-foot) waterfall and indoor landscape of trees and shrubs, and walking trails for visitors, are underway.
And in downtown Seattle, Washington, Amazon is constructing three glass spheres as the centerpiece for its new headquarters. Also set to open in 2018, they plan to use nature to inspire their workers, with treehouse meeting areas and around 3,000 species of plants contained in these structures.
"There's a lot of interest in creating that kind of environment, I think particularly because people recognize the draw that it has. Gardens By The Bay has got extraordinary visitor numbers [25 million since opening in 2012] -- so it has a lot of potential," Eyre says.
But explaining exactly people enjoy seeing plants behind glass proves challenging.
"It's hard to put your finger on it but I think first of all nature; people love to see plants and gardens. But then you combine that with climate," he says. "It's just a lovely space to be in -- you've got the light and the plants together and a lovely piece of architecture."
As space dwindles and urban environments sprawl, it seems only natural that we find new ways to bring the outside in.