The waterlily that changed architecture | Gardening advice

The waterlily that changed architecture | Gardening advice

OOne of the greatest things about working as a botanist is the sheer number of plants there. It is estimated that there are 400,000 species on Earth. This is because more than 1,000 species are recorded as new species of science each year, and plant scientists cannot know all of them.

And this incredible variety occasionally throws something that captures our imagination. Our passion for growing them causes ripples that will revolutionize not only gardening, but our entire lives and even architecture. A classic example of this is found in the most unlikely location, an upstream tributary of the Amazon rainforest.

Giant leaves of giant water lilies, Victoria sp, Not only are their incredible size, large enough to support the weight of the child, but also attractive for the way they changed the face of modern architecture. When this amazing plant seed first arrived from South America to Victorian England, they created competition among British aristocrats as to who could first bloom.

The problem was that the giant leaves continued to grow. This meant that the elaborate heated pools and the specially constructed greenhouses used to house them needed to be bigger than ever. This was a big problem for architects and engineers at the time. Until then, there really wasn’t a technique to create a large, pillar-free expanse wide enough.

“With an amazing twist of fate, the solution to this design’s conundrum was exactly in the leaves they were trying to grow.”: Crystal Palace. Photo: JHU Sheridan Library / Gado / Getty Images

With an amazing twist of fate, the solution to this conundrum was exactly in the leaves they were trying to grow. The plant itself can only create such vast lily pads for an elaborate network of ribbed veins, creating a reinforced mini-arch to support their weight and a series of ” Distribute the load to the “cells”. This was noticed by the ingenious gardener Joseph Paxton. Joseph Paxton has not been formalized in architecture or engineering, but has found that this same technique can be used to form huge glazed structures.

He used it to build a huge Crystal Palace to host the World’s Fair in London in the mid-1800s. It was a complete revolution in architecture, with the largest glass area ever seen at the time. These technologies have led to the creation of almost every large public building in the world, from shopping malls to airports to office blocks.

It has even been argued that the world would be far more isolated than it is today without a structure that could physically hold large gatherings of people from different social classes. All, apparently, thanks to the water lily and the obsession that caused us to see it bloom.

Follow James on Twitter @Botanygeek


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