At first glance, or even first walk-around, this building is a visually engaging but seemingly purposeless construction. Not so. The Seed Cathedral is aptly named. Its prickly appearance is made up of 60,000 translucent rods with fiber-optic filaments that are – get this – filled with seeds. What’s so cool about that? These seeds are from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank in West Sussex, part of the largest plant conservation project in the world.
Workers for the MSB primarily collect seeds that are on the verge of extinction and those that are the most useful for the future. By 2020, the Millennium Seed Bank hopes to have collected 25% of the world’s seeds. This is vital work as plants are enormous providers of food, oxygen and medicinal remedies. We know only a fraction of the role that plants play in the continuation of life on Earth – and you can be guaranteed that role is massive. Architect Thomas Heatherwick says, “The UK pavilion encourages visitors to look again at the role of nature and wonder whether it could be used to solve the current social, economic and environmental challenges of our cities.”
Six storeys of 7.5 meter long tubes filled with seeds would probably be impressive enough – but it doesn’t stop there. Since the rods contain fiber-optic filaments, light is able to reach the interior of the pavilion where it creates an Avatar-like atmosphere (think Eywa and the Tree of Souls). The building also responds slightly to air movement, adding a kinetic element. And best of all, when the Expo is finished, all of the seeds that fill the 60,000 rods will be donated to China.
Unprecedented architecture, a compelling and crucial message, and international cooperative support – what more could you ask for? Thanks, UK.