Jamie Gross -- Interior Design, 2/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Built in 1878, San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers—North America's oldest public wooden greenhouse—has survived its share of catastrophes, including three major earthquakes. But a 1995 windstorm proved more than its redwood-and-glass walls could take; severe structural damage forced the conservatory to close. "No one had ever looked at the building holistically," says Deborah J. Cooper, senior associate at Architectural Resources Group, hired—along with Tennebaum-Manheim Engineers—to restore the 12,000-square-foot landmark.
During the ensuing six-year restoration, ARG disassembled and rebuilt the conservatory from the ground up. Replacing the original skeleton are 100 new arches, milled from reclaimed wood. Laminated safety glass updates traditional glazing, and decorative panes in errant hues have been replaced with colors truer to the design.
To meet current seismic codes without compromising light, reinforcement plates in stainless steel are concealed under the arches. A system of slender horizontal trusses runs the perimeter of the central dome. Now the conservatory—and its treasures within, including a century-old philodendron—is sure to withstand Mother Nature's worst moods.