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Palmen Haus, Schonbrunn Palace, Austria

Location: Schönbrunn Palace Park, 1130 Wien, Austria
Year built: 1882
Architect: Franz Segenschmid

Palm House, located within the Dutch Botanical Gardens, is a remarkable botanical structure. Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph and designed by architect Franz Segenschmid, Palm House is the largest Palm House on the European continent, showcasing its grandeur in the world of botanical architecture. This magnificent structure spans an impressive 111 meters in length and covers an expansive area of 2500 square meters. Construction of the Palm House was completed in 1881/2, marking its place in history. 

The Palm House is characterized by a central pavilion with heights of 28 meters, in addition to two other pavilions. Each of these pavilions is dedicated to housing distinct climatic zones. The northern pavilion caters to cold-weather species, while the southern pavilion replicates a tropical environment, all interconnected through tunnels.  

Upon entering the building, you are presented with a Mediterranean climate at the main entrance, showcasing plants suited for warmer environments. These moderated temperatures can be replicated in the house by the innovative HVAC systems, particularly steam heating, which facilitates the growth of a wide range of rare and delicate plant species. 

Steam heating, as the word implies, uses steam as the primary heating method and it works particularly well in colder climates. The central boiler heats up the water to create steam, which then travels through a network of pipes and radiators to different rooms to heat up or cool down specific areas of the building. As the steam releases the heat, it is then able to condense back to water, which is then returned to the boiler to be reheated. An older style closed-loop system that works well for botanical architecture and other temperature specific buildings.  

True to its name, the Palm House, the display of palm trees dominates the central space, adding to the tropical allure of the southern pavilion. The employment of steam heating is crucial in enabling the cultivation of diverse plant species that would struggle to thrive in other conditions. 

The building’s iron construction is a testament to late historicism construction, with a design that accommodates over 40,000 glass panels. The building houses approximately 4,500 plants representing different regions of the world, from the southern continents to the northern ones. 

 “I found the concept of using steam heating in the building to be quite fascinating, enabling a diverse range of plants to thrive in a controlled environment tailored to their specific needs. What’s most impressive is that this system was implemented centuries ago, and yet the structure still feels pioneering and unique.” – Jessica Wei 

 Images courtesy of Pexels