The first phase of the Mary Selby Botanic Gardens regeneration masterplan has been completed

The first phase of the Mary Selby Botanic Gardens regeneration masterplan has been completed

It makes sense that a botanical garden would have plants and greenery hung from almost every wall and tucked into every crevice. The Mary Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, is no exception to this principle. The 45-acre complex known for its collection of air plants has just emerged from the first phase of a master plan to make the campus more sustainable and to enrich its 50-year history of researching and educating the public about air plants.

The Botanic Garden was founded in 1973 when gardener and philanthropist Mary Selby deeded her residence and property, which later became the gardens. The master plan was first announced in 2017. It includes three phases led by a team of design consultants, including OLIN as landscape lead and master planner; Overland as architect and design lead; Kimlee Horne as site engineer and community liaison; and Sweet Sparkman as local architects.

In the research center's lobby there are custom-made metal and wooden stairs (Ryan Gamma Photography)

The first phase of the multi-year project focused on adding 188,030 square feet to the existing campus with a new visitor reception center, research building, shop and restaurant. The upcoming second and third phases build on the resiliency and sustainability efforts implemented throughout this first phase, with the construction of a hurricane-resistant greenhouse and the construction of a sea wall.

The Jan Goldstein Welcome Center is one of three buildings to be completed in the first phase. The structure, resting on a curved canopy roof, became the new focal point of the botanical garden. The steel supports holding up the roof of the swooping wooden canopy are reminiscent of the shape of tree branches. Bromeliads, orchids and other air plants hang from the rafters above an expanse of pavers planted with garden beds. Inside, a new ticket office becomes the first point of entry for guests and plant enthusiasts, while the Welcome Gallery serves as an introductory guide to the world of plants and gardening.

Research work takes place in new laboratory spaces. (Ryan Jama Photography)

Adjacent to the Welcome Center is the Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center. It features a limestone façade wall that mimics that of a welcome center, a two-story plant wall, a roof lined with planters and an array of solar panels. Here, the theatre, research laboratories and offices wrap around a central atrium made up of several mezzanine levels connected via specially designed steel and wood staircases. The library contains a collection of rare books and upstairs there is a collection of hurricane-proof herbs and spirits.

Among the new spaces is a library containing a collection of rare books. (Ryan Jama Photography)

The third of the three facilities to be realized in the first phase was the Morganroth Live Energy Access Facility, known as LEAF. It combines three programs in one building that the parks called “the real strength of the project” in a press release. Part parking garage, part restaurant, part gift shop, like its neighbors, the building was designed as a model of sustainability. The solar panels, totaling 50,000 square feet, atop the building are set to produce 1.23 million kilowatt-hours of energy, more than enough to power the building and offset nearly 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That's equivalent to supplying 148 American homes. With energy. According to the Botanical Garden theses, these facts alone make it “the world’s first net positive energy botanical complex,” giving the New York Botanical Gardens a new site operations center, which aims to be the world’s first “net positive energy” facility. Bronx, there's a lot to live up to.

The LEAF Building aims to be the world's first positive energy plant complex (Ryan Jama Photography)

The Green Orchid, a new Botanical Garden restaurant, takes the farm-to-table dining experience to a new level (literally) with its “from surface to plate” dining concept. The gardens atop the LEAF building grow herbs, vegetables and fruits for use as cooking ingredients on a menu that changes seasonally. The kitchens are powered 100 percent by electricity, and in combination with solar panels, Mary Selby Botanical Gardens also claims The Green Orchid is “the world’s first net positive energy restaurant.”

Ingredients for meals served at The Green Orchid are located on the roof of the LEAF building. (Ryan Gamma Photography)

The windows flanking the dining area capture nature, which is drawn inward through the installation of planter boxes. The planks used to form the carved cypress and pine roof were taken from trees surrounding the site, uprooted and moved during the construction process. Overland worked with Selby, local artists, and woodworker Ryan Tremblay across campus to find ways to reuse trees in design. Other executed examples include the mahogany board table and its use within the public spaces of the Research Building.

Water is collected campus-wide from buildings and the ground and is distributed across biomes and used to grow crops or directed to nearby Hudson Bayou.

The gift shop is surrounded by large windows. (Ryan Jama Photography)

The expected timeline for the start and completion of phases two and three will be announced soon. In addition to sustainability improvements, the next phases will see the restoration of the Payne Mansion, a new learning wing for educational use, and a rethinking of mobility paths throughout the campus.

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