Edward Cullinan Architects’ design will house upto 50,000 new plant specimens a year

The new wing to Kew’s herbarium, library and archive, designed by Edward Cullinan Architects, has opened.

The development will help accommodate the 30,000 to 50,000 new plant and fungal specimens that botanists bring back to Kew every year from their expeditions.

The 5000m² extension includes climatically controlled storage for the specimens which must be kept below 15C to keep pests like the Herbarium beetle, one of the key threats to the collection, at bay.

The wing also extends the existing main library, providing a reading room, rare book room and archive store where precious volumes, illustrations and original documents can be viewed in secure conditions.

The undulating exterior elevations use brick, English grown Red Western cedar and pale bronze aluminium curtain walling and incorporates a number of “bay windows” where specimens can be taken for viewing.

A fiery red brick was chosen to clad the vaults towards the centre of the builidng, its colour being inspired by Kew Palace and by the rubbed red bricks of the old Herbarium wing’s lintels and quoins.