Lucille Halsell Conservatory

  • In order to accomplish the donor's ambitious program with a very limited budget, Ambasz reduced to a minimum the mechanical equipment usually required to maintain a greenhouse's diverse climates. By separating each climate type into individual containers and constructing earth berms on all sides, the project achieved a substantial reduction of the heat load characteristic of this region. This complex is organized around a garden courtyard that both unifies the various buildings and provides access to the different greenhouses under a shaded arcade. Each is treated as a separate building with its own special climatic conditions and spatial configuration.
  • This imparts a processional quality to the conservatory's circulation sequence: the entrance pavilion with its symbolic tree; the long, wide arcade lined with fruit trees; the peaceful fern room with its water cascades and refreshing mists; and the special events rooms. This procession culminates in the grand palm court, where a ramp wraps around a forest of trees, connecting gracefully with the green roof that becomes another component garden. While recognizing regional vernacular in organizing the buildings around a courtyard, the project also provides a unique design solution to the problem of constructing a greenhouse in a hot, dry climate by using the earth as an insulator. The associate architects for this project were Chumney, Jones & Kell, Inc.

project information

location:   San Antonio, Texas
client:   San Antonio Botanical Center Society
cost:   $4.35M
area:   40,000 sq ft


  • 1985 Progressive Architecture Award
  • 1988 National Glass Association Award for Excellence in Commercial Design
  • 1990 Quaternario Award First Prize