Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Designers: Lord & Burnham (main dome) | City: Pittsburgh, PA | Project Type: sustainable infrastructure, stormwater management, botanical gardens
Date Visited: 09.14.12
Location: 1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
Official Opening Date: 1893

Nicknamed the Green Heart of Pittsburgh, the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are amongst the world’s most sustainable public gardens. Built in 1893 by the steel baron and philanthropist Henry Phipps, the Phipps Conservatory boasts one of the nation’s oldest Victorian-style, glass-domed greenhouses. A National Historic Landmark, the conservatory also prides itself on its sustainable initiatives: its visitor center was the first U.S. LEED-certified visitor center in a public garden and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes–one of the greenest buildings and landscapes in the world–will soon be built as part of its campus.

Even though I have a long list of conservatories I’d like to visit on my trip, I’m afraid that none will match up to my experience at Phipps. It’s really just that spectacular.

Brimming with exotic flora and stunning, cleverly placed Dale Chihuly glass art, Phipps Conservatory is a fantastic treat for the senses. Like other conservatories, Phipps is divided into a series of indoor and outdoor rooms, each featuring a different theme, plant palette, garden style and climate. But its the visitor experience within each room that makes the visit to Phipps a particularly memorable one.

Using whimsy, art, and signage, Phipps strives to make the garden visits an engaging, interactive experience. Signs hovering near flowers encourage people to use their senses; cooking recipes punctuate rooms; interactive fountains make a beautiful water show; and educational exhibits give people a chance to turn their visit into a tactile experience.

My favorite rooms include the Palm Court with its wine cellar fountain, the Orchid Room, Children’s Discovery Garden and the Tropical Forest India exhibit. Phipps’ displays are so elaborate that it it would take too long to go into detail about each one, so instead, I’ll just highly recommend that you go and visit–I’ll definitely be back again.

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