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A pop-up tropical hothouse is coming to east London

It’ll grow ‘an edible jungle of exotic and unusual species’

Written by
Alexandra Sims

The scorching weather earlier this month may have vanished, but things are about to get seriously balmy in Stratford, where a mini hothouse is popping up filled with ‘an edible jungle of exotic and unusual species’. 

Inspired by the old-school Victorian glasshouses in places like Kew Gardens, the greenhouse is one of the landmark projects at this year’s London Design Festival, which will still be doing its best to bring eye-popping and innovative design to the capital. 

Created by architecture practice Studio Weave and garden designer Tom Massey, ‘The Hothouse’ will sit in Stratford’s International Quarter London for a year and be bursting with a cornucopia of exotic fruits and flowers that reads like a list of Rubicon flavours. Guava, orange, gourd, chia seed, pomegranate, mango, lemon, sugarcane, loquat, pineapple and other special species will all be grown under the glass.

The Hothouse London Design Festival
Photograph: ‘The Hothouse’/ London Design Festival

Sadly, you won’t be able to eat any of ‘The Hothouse’ bounty, or go inside. But it won’t just be a pretty allotment, either. The intention is to make a point about climate change and ‘our fragile relationship with nature’, by tracking the crops that would not normally survive in a UK climate over the different seasons. 

The installation will also hark back to the area’s past when the Lee Valley corridor was dominated by a 20-mile stretch of greenhouses. Back in the 1930s, there were more than 1,300 acres of greenhouses in the area, growing ornamental plants, flowers and fruits like grapes and cucumbers (they were exotic at the time, don’t you know?). 

London Design Festival is one of the few annual events to have escaped cancellation or postponement this year. Although it’s made adjustments (some elements will be taking place online) it will still be as comprehensive as ever, with four design districts across the city, a host of new installations from the world’s best designers, artists and architects, plus exciting new talents. It’ll even have installations responding to events of 2020. What’s more, the fest brings more hope that London’s creative scene will survive a year of uncertainty. 

London Design Festival takes place across London from Sep 12-20. Find the full programme here‘The Hothouse’ will be on display in Stratford's International Quarter London for a year from Sep 12. 

Find out about London Design Festival’s ‘Architecture for Dogs’ exhibit.

Into tropical plants? Check out these London conservatories back open again.

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