20 Years of Eden
20 Years of Eden

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20 Years of Eden

Earlier this month, on March 17 2021, the Eden Project celebrated its 20th anniversary. Its founder Sir Tim Smit told Plinth, ‘We feel as if it's the beginning actually of turning the Eden Project from an incredible destination into a movement.’ After ten years, Eden have raised enough money drill towards the centre of the earth to create renewable geothermal energy.

‘We realised that for our 20th anniversary, it's the moment when we're going to leap off and we're going to do something else,’ Smit said. ‘We're going to make ourselves literally as sustainable as we can and working on a circular ecology and economy.’ He described how Eden’s sewage systems are going to be married together to create aerobic processing plants in the fourth of the four big ponds. They will grow fish and shrimp and 40% of the vegetables needed to sustain the site. Smit also aspires to make the whole of Eden measurable, to put into practice Buckminster Fuller’s concept of Spaceship Earth.

Andrew Whalley, Chairman of Grimshaw Architects who built the Eden Project, expressed a shared admiration for the work of Buckminster Fuller, as well as explaining how the design was inspired by nature – pollen seeds, dragonfly wings, and soap bubbles all inspired the structure. ‘The rain forest itself as a great teacher, that you can have enormous wealth and riches with very scarce resource,’ Whalley said. ‘So for Grimshaw, I think it's become a bit of a metaphor for our own architecture, in searching for real efficiency and optimal solutions using the minimum of resource.’

As well as collaborating on Eden International, across sites across the globe, Grimshaw and Eden have just completed Terra, the centrepiece of the Expo 2020 in Dubai. Smit described it as ‘the foremost in the world in terms of resilience or sustainability.’ He added, ‘ I mean we're a bit allergic to the word sustainability because it’s so darned meaningless. We tend to use the word regenerative or resilient, but you can tell as soon as you use a word in the 21st century,it doesn't take long for it to be sterilised and colonised by others.’

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Another word he’d like to see liberated is ‘local’. ‘I think the pandemic has made an awful lot of people who live all over the place say why can't I have the best where I am,’ he said, speculating on local energy networks and local food production at an unprecedented scale. ‘We're going to be looking at the countryside in a new way.

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‘The word farm colonises our spirit and our minds so that we can't think of farms as being schools, as being restaurants as being places for mental well-being, hospitals, all the rest of it. And we need to break down the notion of farm and talk about rural hubs creating incredible opportunity and beautiful places.’ As Eden shifts from destination to movement, let’s hope that others get swept up by their momentum.

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