IKM Inc

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, New Welcome Center


Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Completion: 2005
Project Area: 11,000 ft2
Services: Architecture


Pittsburgh-based IKM Incorporated architects’ design solution for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens provides a 34-foot high glass dome that crowns the new Welcome Center. The new entrance includes 11,000 square feet of lobby, ticketing, gift shop and café spaces. The Welcome Center is situated in front of a 7,600 square foot, historic landmark glass house built in 1893.

The dome evokes the geometry of the historic glass houses behind it and incorporates fritted, laminated, insulated glass to control glare and heat; provides daylight to the visitor lobby and ticketing areas below; and creates a dramatic ascent to the Conservatory beyond.

Calling upon principles of sustainable design, the partially earth-sheltered structure was built into the terrain to create 14 feet of usable space below ground. By placing most of the new space below grade IKM architects and the design team determined that the Conservatory would save as much as 40 to 50 percent in annual energy costs compared to an above grade building.  IKM also selected low or no VOC paints, adhesives, carpet and other materials to help achieve the LEED Silver Rating from the US Green Building Council.

The new Welcome Center at Phipps Conservatory demonstrates that an environmentally friendly, sustainable design can be created in ways sympathetic to an historic setting. Writing in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the architecture critic concluded that “one thing is certain: at last Phipps has the entrance it has so long deserved.”