Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Refurbishment, Building Extension, Architecture, Landscape, Pictures

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Biomes

RBGE Biomes Project: Glasshouse refurbishment and extension, Inverleith, Edinburgh, Scotland

6 Sep 2019

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Glasshouses Repairs

Botanics’ Glasshouses close one by one for emergency repairs

Visitors to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) will find access to the Glasshouses restricted in the coming weeks as contractors carry out essential emergency ventilation repairs. Work has started with a rope team clearly visible on the roof and yellow barriers marking off public pathways between the Modernist Front Range and the Glasshouse Lawn. The first closure is the Arid Lands House, furthest from the historic Palm Houses at the start of the visitor experience.

The work – which will continue throughout the Public Houses and also in the Research Glasshouses, behind the scenes – has been prompted by a series of mechanical failures to the system responsible for ensuring the correct living conditions for the priceless collection of conservation plants under Glass. It highlights the need for the complete refurbishment planned as part of the Botanics’ major £70m Edinburgh Biomes project to transform the North East Corner of the site.

Since pins securing the drive arms on the Glasshouse ventilator system sheared, causing a loose arm to break glass, automatic controls have stopped and the mechanism has been operated manually by Indoor Horticulturists who look after the 34,000+ plants held between the public and research houses. Each of the 10 public houses will be closed in turn to allow replacement of the securing pins throughout the complex. The research houses – with their treasure-trove of species still awaiting official description and naming – are being repaired each evening after working hours.

The clear, dry air of the Arid Lands House transports visitors to desert regions of the world, from the Americas to Africa and Arabia. The displays in the house explore the complex ecosystems of desert life through plants that have adapted to show extraordinary tolerance of dry conditions. It is expected to reopen before the end of the week.

Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE said: “Maintaining the integrity of our Glasshouses in order to protect our priceless plant collection is a huge challenge and my biggest concern. I fear that the next big storm will destroy vital yet failing infrastructure with catastrophic impact on one of Scotland’s greatest assets. While the team is working very hard to literally keep the roof on, the real solution lies in the Edinburgh Biomes project which will protect Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s unique and globally important research and conservation resource.”

Early preparation work for the Edinburgh Biomes will be noticed in the coming months when plants in beds outside Glasshouses are moved to new homes, safely away from construction works. More information can be found by visiting www.rbge.org.uk/edinburghbiomes

2 Aug 2019

Go ahead for plans to safeguard the priceless collections of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Go ahead for plans to safeguard the priceless collections of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has won the backing of city councillors to proceed with an ambitious £70m initiative to safeguard Scotland’s priceless national plant collections and future proof its status as a world-leading centre for plant science, education, horticulture and conservation. State-of-the-art facilities will underpin the Garden’s core activities, while the visitor experience will be greatly enhanced through the refurbishment and extension of the popular public Glasshouses.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh – Temperate Palm House interior:
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Temperate Palm House interior
photo © Adrian Welch

Meeting today (Wednesday, July 31) councillors agreed resoundingly to support the case for RBGE’s Edinburgh Biomes project, underscoring Scotland’s role as a global leader in plant science. It will allow the organisation to address real and increasing threats, such a plant disease and habitat loss, and to deliver a globally-important resource integral to its remit to explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.

As one of the world’s leading plant research and conservation centres, there is a growing requirement for RBGE to employ best practice in science and horticulture – and also to educate and inspire others to play their part in caring for the planet’s vulnerable environment. The project has been approved at a time when the two “Grade A” listed Victorian Palm Houses and 1960’s public and research Glasshouses on its Edinburgh site require substantial restoration and refurbishment. Without urgent action, they would become unsafe and unsound by 2025, putting at risk the priceless Living Collection of 34,000+ plants they house.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh public and research Glasshouses, 1967 by the PSA:
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Plant Houses
photo © Adrian Welch

Preparing to celebrate RBGE’s 350th anniversary, in 2020, with planning permission now secured, the organisation can start the journey towards visionary world-leading facilities to protect and extend its national and international work for generations to come. To its million annual visitors, there will be significant improvements from the refurbishment and new plantings in the public Glasshouses.

The most visible change will be the addition of a stunning new glasshouse linking to the Front Range houses. Its initial purpose will be to provide temporary accommodation for the thousands of plants being decanted for the refurbishment of the public Glasshouses. Ultimately, it will become the point of welcome to a considerably rejuvenated Glasshouse Experience, taking visitors through the modernist Front Range and Victorian Temperate and Tropical Palm Houses.

Planned to take shape through a progression of stages over seven years, the Edinburgh Biomes project will include new research facilities dedicated to combating the increasing numbers of plant pathogens damaging the environment, commerce and gardens big and small. There will be new education facilities to engage with students from primary school through to PhD, locally and around the world. Central to these improvements will be an efficient, cost effective energy centre, significantly reducing the Garden’s carbon emissions.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Temperate Palm House building:
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Temperate Palm House
photo © Adrian Welch

Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE said: “As a world-leading botanic garden responding to the climate emergency and the associated alarming loss of biodiversity, we recognise this is an essential, urgent and exciting project of national and international significance, bringing great benefits to society. It is a necessity to avoid the catastrophic loss of up to four thousand species in our collection.

“The planning decision enables us to move forward with what is the most significant project in the Garden’s history. The need for our pioneering work has never been greater, be it through cutting-edge science, impactful education or inspiring people with the beauty and value of natural capital.

Edinburgh Biomes is crucial to achieve this and the project needs the widest possible support if we are to secure our place as a leader in plant science and education, horticulture and ensure the astonishing Living Collection thrives for future generations. Edinburgh Biomes will engage people of all backgrounds and nationalities, inspiring them to be part of the protection of plant life that sustains and delights us.”

Following initial public consultations, and having addressed questions raised during the planning process, RBGE will continue to provide regular updates for the local community and everyone interested in developments: both in the public areas and behind-the-scenes. More information can be found by visiting rbge.org.uk/edinburghbiomes


Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the world’s leading botanic gardens.

Our Living Collection includes 13,500 plant species.

Our scientists and horticulturists work in 35 countries globally from China and Nepal to Yemen, Brazil and Colombia. We describe on average three new plants and fungi new to science each month.

Every year, 12,000 learners benefit from its education programmes.

The four Gardens – Edinburgh, Benmore, Logan and Dawyck – attract around a million visits a year.

Every year, over 900,000 people visit the flagship Edinburgh Garden and 100,000 visit the Glasshouses, home to 3,000 exotic, rare and threatened plants from around the world.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh generates £52 million a year for the Scottish economy and has a global international economic impact of £103 million a year.

Nearly 350 years old, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has been discovering, collecting and caring for plants since 1670.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action in more than 35 countries around the world. In Scotland its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract around a million visitors each year.

It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future”. www.rbge.org.uk

Previously on Edinburgh Architecture:

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Photos

Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden News

11 Nov 2010 – £35m proposals abandoned due to threatened funding cuts: scheme to replace the Britain’s largest glasshouse halted despite officials warning they have an “appalling carbon footprint”.

Plant Houses Edinburgh

The current glasshouses cost a huge sum in repair and general maintenance and have massive running costs.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Photos

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh building by Edward Cullinan Architects

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