The Crystal Bridge’s unique design has earned attention and praise in the architectural community. It is 224 feet long and 70 feet in diameter. It is covered by 3,028 sections of translucent, double-layered Exolite acrylic panels.
When the Bridge was under construction, it took the largest crane in a five-state region to install the 17 tricord trusses that form its framework, which resembles a massive steel rib cage.
In 2011, all 3,028 original acrylic panels were replaced with new, highly-durable acrylic panels and all steel trusses were repainted during a major renovation project to the Crystal Bridge and the Myriad Botanical Gardens outdoor grounds.
The Conservatory includes 13,000 square feet of plant display area.
Inside the Crystal Bridge plants thrive in two distinct climates: the Tropical Wet Zone, which is at the south end and is watered daily, and the Tropical Dry Zone at the north end which receives water from April through September, followed by drought from November through March.
The wide selection of plants—over 750 varieties!—requires daily hand watering using purified and pH-adjusted water, which is treated by a specialized reverse osmosis system. The R.O. system removes minerals, such as salt, from the water preventing a build-up that can harm and even kill the plants. The water is just like the tropical rain that the plants would experience in their native habitat.
The tropical waterfall on the Wet Mountain crashes down multiply waterfalls for a total of 35 feet pushing 60-80 gallons of water over its edge per minute. This is accomplished using two pumps, one 10 horsepower and the other seven.
Twenty evaporative coolers cool the air inside the Crystal Bridge, each supplying 16,000 cubic feet of air per minute. This keeps the air at a constant temperature for the plants to thrive.
Indoor temperatures range from 62 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit in the south end and 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the north end in the summer. In the winter, temperature ranges from 62 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on cloud cover outside.
Applying silicone latex onto actual rock outcroppings created the realistic appearance of the rock walls in the Crystal Bridge. The latex was used to fabricate molds, which were installed onto reinforced steel angle iron.
April of 1987 marked the beginning of planting inside the Crystal Bridge, with most items purchased from specialty nurseries in Florida and California. Generous donations of plants from local collectors also helped beautify the Conservatory.