Mendel usually appears alongside Darwin in biology textbooks around the world. In the Augustinian Abbey garden adjacent to Masaryk University’s Mendel Museum, his greenhouse was restored and ceremonially reopened in mid-November. The structure represents another milestone in the care for Mendel’s legacy and a continuation of the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of the founder of genetics.
The restored greenhouse was designed by CHYBIK + KRISTOF Architects. Only the foundations of the original greenhouse have been preserved because in the 1870s, the structure was swept away by a tornado-like storm. This meteorological phenomenon is also linked to Mendel’s work because he was the first person in the world to accurately describe its appearance and course.
The restored greenhouse, which cost almost CZK 40 million to build, has a transparent structure made of steel and glass blending in with its surroundings. The architects also referenced Mendel’s laws of genetics in the design. Their project draws on archival materials, replicates the building’s original floor plan and has an identical shell with a distinctive roof. However, the structure has been specifically developed on the basis of Gregor Johann Mendel’s three principles of genetics. “The system is composed of several types of structural elements which, from the largest to the smallest, inherit their properties from each other like Mendel’s peas. A higher number of structural elements allowed us to use a subtler construction design than would otherwise be possible,” said architect Ondřej Chybík.
The new greenhouse incorporates everything for which Mendel is revered in Czechia and the rest of the world. It will attract both experts and the general public to visit Brno, the Augustinian Abbey and Mendel Museum. Experts will meet there for scientific conferences and professional events, while the general public will also be able to do some research in the greenhouse thanks to aeroponics (a method for growing plants without substrate). People will be able to observe all stages of pea growth and immerse themselves in Mendel’s science experiments.
The greenhouse will also be used for various other activities. “For example, the greenhouse will be a destination for school field trips, presentations, scientific gatherings and conferences, but it will also be available for rent as a venue for cultural and social events and weddings,” said Jakub Carda from Společně, a charitable association which takes care of Mendel’s legacy alongside other institutions in Brno.
The greenhouse will be open for tours organised by the Mendel Museum MU from 15 November. “Masaryk University has long looked after the legacy of Gregor Johann Mendel and has been actively developing educational and research activities in the fields to which Mendel devoted his life’s work. We are honoured to be part of a project that has enabled the restoration of this historic greenhouse. Its foundations have long been visited by geneticists and other scientists from all over the world who wanted to pay their respects. We have established cooperation with the Austrian partners of the project, Universität Wien and BOKU, which we intend to extend in the future to further spread awareness of Mendel’s legacy not only in our two countries but all over the world,” said Šárka Pospíšilová, MU Vice-Rector for Research and Doctoral Studies, at the opening ceremony.
This year, Masaryk University has been involved in the celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of the founder of genetics, and in the summer it co-organised the prestigious international Mendel Genetics Conference.