Gardens under glass: a celebration of architecture, nature and light in a book

In the book, published by Princeton Architectural Press, ‘The Conservatory: Gardens Under Glass’, Alan Stein and Nancy Virts, founders of Tanglewood Conservatories describe the fascinating story of how the plain, utilitarian constructions of the 17th century developed into the great glass palaces of the Victorian age, becoming symbols of that era, anticipating the art nouveau and paving the way to modern conservatories. It is about their beauty and grace, and their relevance to the modern world. In the six chapters from orangeries for aristocrats to modern glasshouse marvels, elegant and magnificent, conservatories reveal fascinating social, cultural, botanical and engineering advances as they have evolved across history. First appearing in the 17th century as simple structures designed to protect fruit trees and other delicate plants from harsh European winters, conservatories became grand glass houses that spread across the European continent, to the Americas and ultimately around the world.

The Tanglewood Conservatories company’s mission is to conceive and build the finest classical and modern glass conservatories. As Alan Stein has mentioned: ‘We started our business designing and building conservatories 25 years ago after traveling in Europe and falling in love with the beautiful historic ones there. They became the inspiration for our projects. After we had taken so many photographs of them during our travels, we decided to share our love with everyone by way of writing a book about conservatories’. Of special significance in the 21st century, as from dramatic changes to the ecosystems of Earth, the great public conservatories of the Western world housed some of the first attempts to collect and preserve the flora of the planet. By studying the intersection of cultural and social movements with the technological advances of the time, it’s possible to discover the many ways that the glass conservatories of the Victorians still touch the modernity. Few architectural legacies from the past have so much relevance for today. Through evocative archival and contemporary photographs, drawings of landmark structures and graceful, accessible text, The Conservatory celebrates the patrons and designers who advanced the technology and architectural majesty of these light-filled wonders.

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