Through a glass, lightly

Why glaz­ing can be a more sym­pa­thetic ad­di­tion to a house than bricks

Country Life Every Week - - Interior Design The Inside Track - Giles Kime

THE best-known achieve­ment of Sir Joseph Pax­ton was not his cul­ti­va­tion of the Cavendish ba­nana (the world’s most widely con­sumed va­ri­ety), but the Crys­tal Palace, the shim­mer­ing cathe­dral in glass that tow­ered 108ft above the vis­i­tors to the Great Ex­hi­bi­tion in 1851 and was con­structed from 293,000 panes of glass and 4,500 tons of iron.

As well as demon­strat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of both ma­te­ri­als, the Crys­tal Palace pre­cip­i­tated a fash­ion for sim­i­lar struc­tures on a smaller scale, prin­ci­pally for the prop­a­ga­tion of ex­ot­ica.

Of the many breath­tak­ing as­pects of the restora­tion of Bal­lyfin— one of the pin­na­cles of Ir­ish neo­clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture—is the painstak­ing re­vival of Richard Turner’s con­ser­va­tory, which was reached through a book­case in the li­brary.

It’s not just the de­sign and con­struc­tion of Turner’s ad­di­tion that is so im­pres­sive—it was also an elo­quent demon­stra­tion of how glass can pro­vide a sym­pa­thetic means of ex­pand­ing the foot­print of a build­ing, par­tic­u­larly when com­pared to ex­ten­sions that mimic the ar­chi­tec­ture of the orig­i­nal struc­ture (a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem when the source of mimicry is al­ready pretty un­pre­pos­sess­ing).

Al­though con­ser­va­to­ries have their ori­gins in hor­ti­cul­ture, they quickly evolved to serve all sorts of other pur­poses. They of­fer a litany of ben­e­fits, par­tic­u­larly to own­ers of light-starved pe­riod prop­er­ties for whom they of­fer an op­por­tu­nity to bring sun­shine to a liv­ing space. Care­fully de­signed, they can ef­fort­lessly as­sim­i­late into al­most any ar­chi­tec­tural con­text.

How­ever, like any con­struc­tion project, they ben­e­fit from a plan­ning process that ad­dresses not just the ex­te­rior ap­pear­ance, but also the way they will be used, lit, heated and cooled. All of these are mi­nor chal­lenges, ex­cept when they’re left too late. Any ex­pe­ri­enced prac­ti­tioner will be happy to show you the way. As they say in the trade, build in haste, re­pent at leisure.

The Vic­to­rian con­ser­va­tory at Bal­lyfin was one of a num­ber of ex­ten­sions in­spired by Joseph Pax­ton’s Crys­tal Palace

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