Designing the Seed Cathedral
Heatherwick: It was built in China.
Heatherwick: It will be dismantled, but fortunately we’ve had enormous interest in the pavilion; many people are asking where it could be rebuilt afterwards, which is lovely. Our plans at the moment are for the seeds to be distributed to hundreds of different schools in China and the UK, because as a resource they’re something that schools have never had before. The project has been given the nickname “the dandelion”. That was a post-rationalization, but I quite like that the seeds will be virtually blown away, distributed to become teaching aids.
Heatherwick: That sheet gave us a way to create one unified surface, a visual calmness. It simplifies the true complexity of the British pavilion and creates a canopy which protects visitors from sun and rain as they go up the ramp to the bridge leading into the Seed Cathedral.
Heatherwick: A timber main box forms the structure underneath. Each of the acrylic rods has a metal tube that supports it and is connected to that box. Some of those metal tubes are structural. So the load is spread over the metal part of the structure, not over the acrylic, even though, interestingly, engineers discovered that we could support it on the acrylic. We did a lot of tests for that, but the timing was too tight for us to be able to have that unconventional structural system validated and proven, so we simply used the metal elements.
Heatherwick: The whole Expo is about the future of cities. The United Kingdom has a long history of bringing nature into its cities, as a way of making cities more humane. We discovered that London was the greenest city of its size in the world, that both the world’s first public park and the world’s first major botanical institution (the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew) were in the UK. Today, Kew is the pioneer of the Millennium Seed Bank partnership, an extraordinary conservation project in which seeds from 25 per cent of the world’s plant species are being collected, researched and stored. Many people know about this project but no one has ever seen it.
Architects: Heatherwick studio
Heatherwick: The big Expos around the world are all very busy, rich, complex and mind-bogglingly amazing events, but when you ask people what they remember, it always seems to be the pure, very simple things. So we thought we shouldn’t just design a building and then worry about what exhibition to put inside, but rather design something simple, where the exhibition idea determines the building.