Heatherwick Studio has designed a pyramidal glasshouse with unfolding “sepals” for Woolbeding Gardens in West Sussex.

Commissioned for a spot in the 26-acre gardens of the National Trust’s Woolbeding Estate, the Kinetic Glasshouse by Heatherwick Studio contains sub-tropical flora and is one of twelve zones with a new garden that celebrate the influence of the Silk Road on British gardens – sharing the story of  varieties such as rosemary, lavender and fennel that traveled along the Silk Route from China to the Mediterranean.

The pyramidal glasshouse has 10 aluminium-framed facets that splay open like sepals in pinwheel formation for ventilation. Inside the glasshouse is a rare specimen of an Aralia Vietnamensis,  as well as ferns, magnolias and bananas. 

“This is a place and a project that literally unfolds. You step through this bewitchingly beautiful garden and discover an object that starts like a jewel and ends like a crown, as the Glasshouse slowly unfurls,” said designer Thomas Heatherwick

“I think it also speaks of our need to keep creating amazing pasts. Weaving contemporary inventions into the fabric of historic settings and having the confidence to let each one speak to the other.” 


The £5.8 million project is funded by the late Simon Sainsbury and his partner Stewart Grimshaw, who leased Woolbeding Estate from the National Trust since 1972 and brought on designers Lanning Roper, and Julian and Isabel Bannerman to shape the gardens. It is the final project to be funded by The Monument Trust – set up by Sainsbury in 1965 and closed in 2018 – which donated over £20 million to the National Trust for restoration of its houses, collections and grounds. A legacy grant of £11 million is covering the cost of creation and maintenance of the new Silk Route garden at the estate.

“It’s been fantastic working with Heatherwick Studio, with Stewart Grimshaw and the whole project team, and it’s been an inspiring journey that we hope will equally inspire our visitors. It is a chance not only to discover the many stories of owners, gardeners and designers who left their mark, but also experience the excitement and wonder of new designs and ideas,” said Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parks for the National Trust.

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Heatherwick Studio
Civil and structural engineer
Eckersley O’Callaghan
Environmental Design and Building Services Engineer
Atelier Ten

Landscape architects
MRG Studio
R W Armstrong
Technical design and construction
Project manager
Stuart A Johnson Consulting