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Location: Jephson Gardens, Royal Leamington Spa,

Client: Warwick District Council

Value: £1.2m

Status: Completed 2002

Leamington Temperate House

Located in Royal Leamington Spa, the new Temperate House and Restaurant was part of a major regeneration scheme for the listed Jephson Gardens, a Victorian Park in the centre of this historic spa town. Providing a temperate climate for myriad plant types, the ‘glass house’ is sandwiched between a two-storey exhibition foyer and a 120-seat restaurant.

The Client’s brief was for a temperate house, teaching facilities and restaurant, which would form a key element of the major park refurbishment undertaken by Warwick District Council, assisted by monies from the Heritage Lottery Fund. On a site previously occupied by derelict potting sheds, the new building provides a focus for the Gardens and an extension to the public amenities in the centre of the town.

The riverside building, which hovers over the River Leam and offers panoramic views across the gardens, is constructed of structural glass fixed to a light steel frame. The entrance and teaching facilities are located alongside the main avenue through the park and the plan exploits the gentle slope in the site to allow visitors to wander down a series of ramps and through the glasshouse, before arriving in the restaurant overlooking the river.

A key challenge was the technical realisation of the light structure, ‘floating’ over the plant exhibits whilst providing sufficient environmental control to accommodate the plant specimens within. This was achieved with structural glazing supported from a steel frame of gull wing spines spanning the width of the building.

Using highly specialist engineering solutions, each glazed gull wing is connected to the next by a zone of clerestorey glazing that automatically opens to naturally ventilate the space, but which also ensures that each wing is read as an individual form. The central glasshouse is supported on a reinforced concrete base structure which rises at either end to form the teaching block and the cantilevered restaurant, which projects out of the bank as the land dips down to the river.

The Planning Authority were supportive of the scheme as the key element in the refurbishment of the Gardens. The prime riverside location provided its own challenges as, following the floods of 1998, the Environment Agency imposed strict guidelines on floor levels and flood profiles along the riverbank. The projecting restaurant with is ‘flood undercroft’ is a result of accommodating these constraints.