Woolbeding Gardens Glasshouse

Unique Kinetic Glasshouse

Woolbeding Glasshouse is an example of artistry and technical excellence with some unique operational requirements adding complexity and challenge to this solution.

Bellapart has successfully designed, manufactured and installed the most special, bespoke and unique building of the year! And most probably of the decade! 

A dynamic and breath-taking structure that dramatically opens and closes in a natural setting.

The Project

Type of structure
Bespoke and complex design
Date completed
Scope of Work
  • Construction Design
  • Engineering & Multiphysics Analysis
  • Prototype & Testing
  • Topographical Survey
  • Shop Drawing & CAM Programming
  • Fabrication
  • Logistics
  • Installation & Site Safety
  • Quality Control
    • Moving Sepals Height: 15m
    • Max. Extent Diameter: 20m

    The Team

    National Trust & The Woolbeding Charity
    Heatherwick Studio
    Engineering Consultant
    Eckersley O'Callaghan
    Main Contractor
    RW Armstrong
    Cost Consultant
    Core 5

    Heatherwick Studio creative design for the National Trust garden was inspired by the flora and fauna of the ancient Silk Route. Its jewel-like shape is radially symmetrical, like a large terrarium. Its pyramidal form echoes the pitched roofs of traditional structures in the landscape, while allowing enough height for the plants within to grow.

    The highly innovative design of this unique Glasshouse incorporates a series of 15m long sepals that gently opens and close simultaneously, operating as a precise machine. The complex system developed by Bellapart also guarantees ventilation and protection to an array of subtropical plants living and breathing inside, as well as weather tightness once closed. 

    Our responsibility included design of the dynamic structure and identifying, designing, testing and installing the moving mechanism controlling the sepals. Followed by fabrication in our own workshop, logistics and installation on site.

    The Glasshouse is a hybrid between a building and a machine. 

    Bellapart integrated the hydraulic system necessary to open the sepals into the design, as well as the pneumatic system that inflates and deflates the gasket system.

    The Glasshouse is a steel framed pavilion structure, complete with double glazed cladding panels. The top section of the pavilion, is constructed to permit opening and closing by hydraulic pistons.

    Bellapart integrated the hydraulic system necessary to open the sepals into the design, as well as the pneumatic system that inflates and deflates the gasket system.

    Moreover, a key issue to understand was the wind loading on the structure and how it would vary as the sepals open. A wind tunnel test was carried out simulating eight stages from fully closed to fully open, and an accidental case where one sepal is stuck open.

    Additionally, an appropriate system to guarantee the weather tightness of the Glasshouse was developed and a series of tests were conducted to ensure this was achieved. 

    An architecture flower in the English countryside

    The project’s remote location brought an additional level of complexity and necessitated design changes for installation and the development of an engineering intervention. Instead of being taken to site in one piece, the sepals had to be constructed onsite from three pieces.

    Overall, Bellapart ensured optimum façade performance addressing: thermal transmission and condensation, weather tightness, drainage and solar gain. We also addressed sustainability aspects on the project to limit its environmental impact utilising the sun’s energy during the winter to minimise heating requirements impacted the initial glass, coating and interlayer selection. Glass selection was also influenced by the need to maximise light transmission and provide efficient thermal insulation.

    For visitors it is a breath-taking and unique experience to see the dynamic structure dramatically open and close in this natural setting. It is an impressive example of design and engineering and of what can be achieved and is possible for the general public and future generations.


    Woolbeding Gardens
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    Paula Arbós
    Business Development Director
    Christoph Egle
    Business Development Director UK