No. 55 . 20 June 2001 
ArchitectureWeek
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UK Garden of Eden

by Don Barker

It was like a scene out of Stanislaw Lem's science fiction classic Solaris, with the swirling mists spiraling upward from a giant crater deep within the earth. Slowly, through the haze, emerged a city, no ordinary urban conurbation but an epicenter under giant geometric domes on a lunar landscape.

This is not life, as we know it — this is the future. Welcome to the Eden Project!

The 21st century Garden of Eden in the southwest of the United Kingdom arouses the senses, encouraging the erstwhile stagnant subconscious to run riot. The mission, to show how human beings rely on plants, has resulted in a series of huge lunar-like domes surrounded by an equally dramatic landscape built into a 200-foot- (60-meter-) deep disused china clay pit near St. Austell in Cornwall.

Opened in March 2001, Eden is set to become one of the country's leading tourist attractions. Indeed, even before it was complete, the project had the distinction of being the most visited construction site in the world.

Eden's Origins

The Eden Project was the brainchild of Tim Smit, now the chief executive of Eden. In 1995 he and local architect, Jonathan Ball started what was to evolve into an 86 million project.

From experience gained in a previous project, the restoration of the Victorian Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, Smit noticed that visitors were fascinated by the "stories" related to individual plants: the "seed was sown."  

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