by STIRworldMay 11, 2020
The historic 19th century greenhouse in the Czech town of Brno, where celebrated scientist Gregor Mendel discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance, is being resurrected by local architects, CHYBIK+KRISTOF. The project introduces a trapezoidal volume with a layout that follows the ground plan of Mendel’s beloved garden.
Located on a four-acre patch of land, the original greenhouse belonged to the St. Augustinian Abbey where Mendel was a friar. He spent eight years (1856-63) in the space conducting experiments on pea plants to investigate how physical traits are passed down from one generation to the next, unbeknown to him at the time that he was laying the groundwork of modern genetics. Unfortunately, the greenhouse was swept away in a storm in the 1870s, of which now only the foundation remains.
Drawing from the historic and scientific legacy of the site, architects Ondřej Chybík and Michal Krištof have put the original garden’s footprint and identity at the centre of their intervention, including the former orientation, shape and the distinct form.
The new greenhouse is being visualised as a criss-cross framework of steel bars that make up fully open walls and a pitched roof that reveal a striking visual transparency to the space.
A key inspiration in deriving the form of the new greenhouse and its various details is sought in the treasured contribution of its original inhabitant, Gregor Mendel.
"The nodes and branches constituting the steel supportive framing are in direct dialogue with his laws of inheritance, in particular that of hereditary segregation. Building on this notion as well as Mendel’s original drawings, the resulting, highly complex structure pays homage to his legacy,” explains founder Ondřej Chybík.
“Laid bare by the transparency of the glass roof, the edifice both embodies and exposes his undeniable contribution to modern science.”
To ensure the space remains comfortable in any weather condition, CHBYK+KRISTOF has imparted a sustainable scheme to the project. During winter, the concealed system of heat pumps located underground will help warm up the interiors, while in summers, the adjusted shades embedded in the steel framework will cut direct sunlight and allow natural cooling and ventilation. Overall, the scheme revisits the regulative properties of a greenhouse.
In addition to creating a conducive micro-climate, the design of the space is flexible to suit different needs. “The vast, adaptable volume allows for a diversity of events from conferences and lectures to temporary exhibitions, while the integrated blinds enable the space to be darkened for projections and concerts,” adds the studio.
The project is an attempt to create a ‘gentle monument’, a term the studio defines for a building that reminds us of our values and of our place in time, but not through its imposing form. Mendel’s resurrected greenhouse, the designers believe, is a playful investigation into how historical references can be interpreted.
The resurrected greenhouse is envisioned to commemorate a milestone in the history of modern genetics as its completion is due in 2022 – the year which would mark the 200th birth anniversary of its pioneering advocate.