'Longwood Reimagined' Taking Shape
9. March 2023
Steel framework of the West Conservatory, designed by WEISS/MANFREDI. Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience. (Photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy. Courtesy of Longwood Gardens. © Sahar Coston-Hardy/Esto)
Construction of WEISS/MANFREDI's design for the West Conservatory at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia recently topped out. A short film shows the erecting of the steel structure that was inspired by the branching of trees.
Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience was unveiled in early 2021, the centennial of Longwood Gardens, when we presented a short film about the $250 million project. Although it consists of many parts — including, among other things, a new restaurant and event space, a new education and administration building, and the relocation of Cascade Garden, a lesser-known work by the great Roberto Burle Marx — the project's standout feature is the new West Conservatory, a 32,000-square-foot glasshouse designed by WEISS/MANFREDI.
Architects Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss call the new conservatory “the centerpiece of a cinematic sequence of open and enclosed gardens that together shape the landscape.” As can be seen in the aerial rendering below, the new conservatory sits on axis with the existing East Conservatory, an outdoor lily display, and the small grove of trees that inspired the architects. The new building will sits in a shallow pond that appears to extend inside the conservatory, where a system of pedestrian paths will allow visitors to walk among planted islands with more than 70 species of plants selected and laid out by Reed Hilderbrand, the landscape architect for the whole project.
Aerial View from Southwest. Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience. (Courtesy of WEISS/MANFREDI with Reed Hilderbrand for Longwood Gardens)
Weiss and Manfredi further explained how they found inspiration in the spirit of innovation of Longwood Gardens founder, industrialist Pierre S. du Pont: “We have designed a living and breathing glass house, with walls and roofs that open and close in response to the weather, earth tubes that draw temperate air inside, and roof valleys that collect water, creating a sustainable destination we hope will become an enduring source of wonder and inspiration.”
At this point in the project, with no opening set but one realistically happening before the end of 2024, the most stunning aspect of Longwood Reimagined taking shape is the West Conservatory's structural steel, where columns becomes beams to support the glass roof that ranges in height from 15 to 48 feet. No wonder the branching structure is the focus of a short film released by Longwood Gardens.