The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall in the United Kingdom, including the world’s largest greenhouse. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world. The project is located in a reclaimed Kaolinite pit, located 2 km from the town of St Blazey and 5 km from the larger town of St Austell, Cornwall.
The complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house plant species from around the world. Each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. The first dome emulates a tropical environment, and the second aMediterranean environment.
The project was conceived by Tim Smit and designed by architect Nicholas Grimshaw and engineering firm Anthony Hunt and Associates (now part of Sinclair Knight Merz). Davis Langdon carried out the project management, Sir Robert McAlpine and Alfred McAlpine did the construction and MERO designed and built the biomes. Land Use Consultants led the masterplan and landscape design. The project took 2½ years to construct and opened to the public on 17 March 2001.
The Mediterranean Biome covers 0.654 hectares (1.6 acres) and measures 35 metres (115 ft) high, 65 metres (213 ft) wide and 135 metres (443 ft) long. It houses familiar warm temperate and arid plants such as olives and grape vines and various sculptures.
The Outdoor Biome (which is not covered) represents the temperate regions of the world with plants such as tea, lavender, hops, hemp andsunflowers.
Grimshaw developed the geometry of the copper-clad roof in collaboration with a sculptor, Peter Randall-Page, and Mike Purvis of structural engineers SKM Anthony Hunts. It is derived from phyllotaxis, which is the mathematical basis for nearly all plant growth; the “opposing spirals” found in many plants such as the seeds in a sunflower’s head, pine cones andpineapples. The copper was obtained from traceable sources, and the Eden Project is working with Rio Tinto to explore the possibility of encouraging further traceable supply routes for metals, which would enable users to avoid metals mined unethically. The services and acoustic design was carried out by Buro Happold.
At the insistence of architect Jolyon Brewis (Grimshaw) the photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of the core building was arranged in an inclined circle for aesthetic reasons. However this arrangement ensures that more than half of the panels never receive direct sunlight.
The Eden Project includes environmental education focusing on the interdependence of plants and people; plants are labelled with their medicinal uses. The massive amounts of water required to create the humid conditions of the Tropical Biome, and to serve the toilet facilities, are all sanitized rain water that would otherwise collect at the bottom of the quarry. The onlymains water used is for hand washing and for cooking. The complex also uses Green Tariff Electricity — the energy comes from one of the many wind turbines in Cornwall, which were among the first in Europe.
Controversially, one of the companies the Eden Project currently partners with is the British mining company Rio Tinto Group. Rio Tinto is set to begin mining in Madagascar fortitanium dioxide. This will involve the removal of a large section of coastal forest, and may cause extensive damage to the unique biodiversity of the Malagasy flora and fauna.
In December 2010 the Eden Project received permission to build a Geothermal electricity plant which will generate approx 4MWe, enough to supply Eden and about 5000 households.
Edited from The Eden Project