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Nicoll Russell wins Edinburgh glasshouse contest

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Nicoll Russell Studios has won a competition to design a landmark £7.5 million glasshouse at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (RBGE)

The Dundee-based practice was chosen ahead of an undisclosed shortlist of rival firms to win the contest, which was tendered through the Crown Commercial Services framework.

The project is part of a wider £70 million regeneration of the garden which was founded in Holyrood Park close to 350 years ago and is now based at a 28ha site on Inverleith Row.

Dubbed ‘Edinburgh Biomes’, the redevelopment will also see botanic gardens’ existing Grade A-listed Victorian and 20th-century glasshouses refurbished and upgraded.

Commenting on the appointment, the practice said: ‘Nicoll Russell Studios was honoured to be invited to take part in the competition to design a new glasshouse for the RBGE and we were delighted to be selected to take our design forward.

‘Edinburgh Biomes is a fantastic project to be involved in and we are exhilarated by the prospect of seeing it unfold in the coming years. The RBGE is a world-renowned Scottish institution, with a proud history and, with the advent of RBGE Biomes project, it looks certain to have a very bright future.’

Nicoll Russell’s winning scheme was inspired by natural forms and will feature both an internal green wall and waterfall along with a viewing platform overlooking the city’s skyline. 

Architect’s view

The New Glasshouse will be a key component of the wider Edinburgh Biomes project, which is focused upon enabling the RBGE to build on its already established reputation as one of the world’s foremost Botanic Gardens. The project is also essential in developing RBGE’s globally important roles in the fields of plant research and conservation.

The New Glasshouse will create a dramatic new start point to the reimagined ‘Glasshouse Experience’ at RBGE. The building’s form is inspired by nature and takes the shape of a ‘glass leaf’ engaging with the western end of the existing Herbarium building which houses one of the world’s finest collections of preserved plant specimens. The New Glasshouse aims to facilitate links and promote the less well known, but equally important facets of RBGE.

Under the umbrella of the new glass canopy, visitors will be presented with a dramatic biome, with the plants and architecture combining to create an inspiring ensemble. A living green wall will rise the full height of the extended Herbarium façade, creating a dynamic centrepiece, with a waterfall cascading down through the space. As they make their way upwards through the building, visitors can explore exhibition areas as they pass behind the water feature. They will be able to rise up through the plant canopies, culminating at the top level, where they will be presented with a panoramic view across the garden’s treetops to the skyline of Edinburgh beyond.

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