A Greenhouse To Go

Determined to keep the greenhouse alive, a Danish architect creates plant-loving pods that cultivate urban growth.

When it was introduced in the 1800s, the modern greenhouse was at the forefront of architectural design. While architects of the time were busying themselves with gargantuan pastiche, gardeners and craftsmen like Joseph Paxton, of later Crystal Palace fame, were building the ferrovitreous structures of the future.


A century and a half later, the greenhouse is clinging on for dear life. You don’t see new ones appearing anymore, and those that are still around exist in abbreviated form, like the cutesy state conservatories that dot our capital cities. But Danish architect Simon Hjermind Jensen thinks it’s high time for a comeback. His Invisible Garden House revamps the plant-growing structure for the pop-up age.

In Jensen’s scheme, small, semi-portable garden pods are arranged in reconfigurable clusters. The domelike structures enclose small garden beds and patio spaces that are heated, of course, by the sun’s rays. Latches on the top of each pod can be opened to vent out heat, or in the winter, fixed shut to trap in the warmth.

The project swaps glass and steel for UV-protected polycarbonate, a highly durable yet light material that’s used for both the shell and structure of the pods. The 4mm-thick panels are CNC-milled and then bent into shape along a structural curve. The pieces are held together by white polycarbonate ties knitted together in a thin skeletal backbone that supports the arching walls. Jensen likens the tectonics to the “handicraft of a tailor” because, like shirtmaking, he says, the production involves “stitching two-dimensional pieces into three-dimensional objects.”

The architect, who runs SHJWORKS in Copenhagen, holds a lot of stock in pop-ups. His previous work explores how small, modular structures can be aggregated into complex shapes that encourage social interaction. Like many contemporary architects, he finds portable, easy-to-assemble projects more responsive than traditional buildings, especially in urban contexts. Cities, Jensen tells Co.Design, operate at a pace that’s often too fast for architecture.

His pop-ups, however, are easily assembled and, thus, disassembled, meaning they can “take advantage of the gaps and in-between spaces created by the slower change of the city’s physical structure.” Temporary buildings are also ideal incubators, says Jensen, to test “new structural concepts and…pop-up functions which relate and connect to the existing urban fabric.”

It’s an appealing plan for growth, urban and plant: Jensen is currently researching applications for his garden houses in public spaces. He’s also working to market the system itself, which would make it possible for anyone to build their own miniature greenhouse.

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.