The Buffalo & Eerie County Conservatory

The Buffalo & Erie County Conservatory took three years to build from 1897-99 at a cost of $130,000. It is part of a 156-acre (63-hectare) botanical garden. The architects and builders were Frederick Lord, a former carpenter, and his business partner son-in-law William Burnham. This conservatory was one of the largest in the USA at the time. Both the conservatory and the botanic garden still operated with active programs of conservation, scientific investigation and public interest. In that sense the conservatory fulfils a traditional function of plant display. It is described by its public service managers as, “the horticultural hub of western New York”, and its 20,000 horticultural specimens are part of a movement to “sustain the wonders of Earth’s natural systems to ensure diverse plant life for future generations”.

This is a very traditional application of the term ‘conservatory’ on a grand scale.

Buffalo Conservatory
Buffalo & Eerie County Conservatory

Apple’s Fifth Avenue Storefront

The effect is stunning. Apparently this glass house is now the most photographed building in New York. Even more than the aesthetic effect, the architectural and engineering implications of this glass structure are very instructive. It is a 32-foot cube, almost 10 metres by 10 metres by 10 metres, housing the entrance to Apple’s underground store. The original structure, which opened May 2006, included 90 panels plus the doors. As of late 2011, after a total refit, the entire store entrance is now just 15 panels plus the doors. Which means each panel is 9.7 metres tall, 3.25 metres wide and about 5 centimetres thick. These were, according to reports, the largest panels ever constructed at that time, sourced from China. There is no steel infrastructure, meaning the walls and roof are self-supporting, requiring only sleep fixings to hold the panels together. This is not the first entirely glass structure ever built of course, but the architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and their consulting engineers pushed glass into brand new territory; this has flow on consequences for new possibilities in domestic conservatory design. Despite all the glass we see in homes and skyscrapers alike, glass is still in its infancy as a structural phenomenon.