Restoring the Palm Houses

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[Steven Poliri] I’m Steven Poliri, Director of Estates and Facilities and we are standing in the Temperate Palm House, next door to the Tropical Palm House.
The Palm Houses are so special and significant because they’re really architecturally important. They’re part of Scotland’s Heritage, they’re category A listed buildings. And they’re home to the National Living Collection.
The restoration is so important because the condition of the building is deteriorating. And it needs investment now in order to prevent that from degrading further.
The benefits of restoring the Palm Houses are that we will protect the National Living Collection and also safeguard the heritage of the building as well.
We need to invest in repairing the stonework and carrying out stone repairs and stone indents. We also need to replace and repair the roof and carry out conservation work to the heritage iron work that’s in the roof. And also the glass needs to be replaced and repaired. We need to fix all those problems, get the collection back in and keep it as safe as we can.
I don’t think something of this scale has been carried out since around about 1820 when they moved from Leith, up to the Inverleith site. So it’s a really once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our supporters to be involved in.
[Jamie Bateman] The Palm Houses are now almost 200 years old, and they’re certainly feeling their age. There’s been quite a bit of deterioration on them and if we don’t do anything with them, then they’re not going to be reliable in the future for protecting the plant collection that’s held here.
When you restore a building like this, we need to understand what we just have to repair because it’s deteriorated over the years, and where there’s actually a fundamental problem with the fabric of the building. The gutters and downpipes on this building aren’t sufficient, particularly when you take climate change and increased intensity of rainfall into account.
What we want people to see when they come to look at this building once it’s complete, is that an old friend has been restored and made smart again. But we also want them to come and see something new that they haven’t seen before in the building.
For example, we’ll be taking away the screen between the two glass houses and, for the first time in a generation, people will be able to appreciate the two spaces together.
And also, the smaller Palm House at the back here, for the first time, people will be able to see the outside of that building, as part of the public tour. Come the end of this project, we want these buildings, which have already survived for 200 years, to be good and safe for another 200 years, so that they can continue to protect the plant collection and to help to preserve biodiversity for future generations.

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