The new tropical conservatory is a 17,000 square-foot addition to Omaha’s botanical garden. The program of the new building allows for a 5,000 square-foot Temperate House, a 10,000 square-foot Tropical House, and a 2,000 square-foot Gallery bay. Visitors will begin the building experience by entering the new greenhouse structure from the existing visitor’s center building, where they will enter into the Temperate House. From here they will begin a gradual rise in elevation as they progress through the Temperate House, on to the Tropical House, and eventually arriving at an overlook viewing platform and the Gallery bay, both 20’ higher in elevation than the starting point. Here, views back down to the conservatory and also to the expansive river valley of the site can be experienced.

The technology of the new conservatory aims to preserve as much energy as possible through the use of breathable glazing for natural circulation, operable vents and louvers for natural ventilation, and retractable mechanical shades to preserve heat overnight. The site is designed with a large 20,000 gallon water storage tank that collects water to be used within the conservatory for irrigation and other needs.

The organic, crystalline shell of the new tropical conservatory was designed and detailed using both advanced digital technology and traditional, timeless methods of construction. A 12’ structural module was a starting parameter for the conservatory form, which was then curved, molded, and extruded using advanced modeling to generate an organic form mimicking the growth of a tropical heliconia flower. The glass shell itself is detailed to be constructed of a lapped shingle glass system, where the horizontal joints of the glass panels simply lay on top of one another, allowing the entire structure to breathe. Operable louvers on the side walls and roof further allow the structure to naturally ventilate. Galvanized steel trusses, aluminum framing, glass, concrete, and stone make up the design pallet.