THE BRITS WHO BUILT THE MODERN WORLD

Eden Project

Built

2001

Location

Eden Project, Bodelva, Cornwall

This structure, bubbling above the surface of the pits of a former quarry, comprises 2.2 hectares of growing space for plants in rainforest and Mediterranean conditions. Nicholas Grimshaw’s successful Millennium Project sits on the site in the form of eight domes of varying sizes, interlinked, lining the foot of a cliff. The isolated uneven site and the need to create optimum conditions for photosynthesis required a lightweight solution that wouldn’t need bespoke parts or cast deep shadows.

Inspired in part by the geodesic structures of Buckminster Fuller, the Eden Project’s domes are an economic way of enclosing large amounts of space and unlike traditional greenhouses the design uses panels that are made of two layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) foil, a plastic instead of heavier glass. Tubular steel hexagons join up to create the frame of each dome, the size of each hexagonal element contracts and decreases in accordance with the size of the dome. ETFE proved easier and quicker to cut than glass to span the different sizes of hexagonal panels.

Today it attracts around one million visitors a year. It expanded in 2005 with the opening of another Grimshaw-designed building nearby, the Core, a Fibonacci sequence-inspired educational facility.

Before the Eden Project
The site was a disused quarry, closed when contractors moved in to redevelop the site. Before building work could start at the pit 1.8 million tonnes of earth was moved to stabilise the site.

Design for the Eden Project, Bodelva, Cornwall: section through the Biomes

I think this is a project we will return to time and again.
Not just to see the structure, but to see the growth and
change in this botanical kingdom

Quotes about the Eden Project


‘Honeycomb, flies’ eye, frog spawn, cuckoo spit – choose your organic simile’
Colin Davies, Architectural Review, August 2001, p.41

‘Like its greatest predecessors, the Crystal Palace and the Palm House at Kew, the Eden Project in Cornwall has captured the public’s imagination.’
Jeremy Melvin, Architectural Design, July 2001, p.97

‘I think this is a project we will return to time and again. Not just to see the structure, but to see the growth and change in this botanical kingdom.’
Nicholas Grimshaw in ‘Equilibrium’, 2000, by Hugh Pearman, p.116

Left: Eden Project, Bodelva, Cornwall; Right: United States Pavilion, Ile Sainte Helene, Expo '67, Montreal: the Minirail emerging from the dome
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