Temperate House, Kew, London, by Donald Insall Associates

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The world’s largest Victorian greenhouse is about to emerge from an at times nerve-racking restoration

Renovating the world’s largest surviving Victorian glass structure may seem like a daunting enough task. But when that structure also happens to be a grade I listed building, is located on one of London’s four Unesco world heritage sites and maintains only one vehicular access route – which, with very few exceptions, is reserved solely for use by the Queen – then it becomes clear that this is a project facing a formidable set of challenges. 

Which is why the imminent completion of the Temperate House in Kew Gardens is a historic event. Covering 300 acres and opened in 1759, Kew Gardens in south-west London is one of the oldest and largest botanical gardens in the world. While its world-renowned collection of plants and specimens obviously takes centre stage, architecturally it is also famed for its string of palatial glass greenhouses, which date primarily from the 19th century.

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