Gallery: Construction Complete on the UK’s Stunning Seed Cathedral


The brilliant bristling structure you see above is not the world’s largest pincushion – it’s Thomas Heatherwick‘s recently completed UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Dubbed the “Seed Cathedral”, the six-story high structure is studded with 60,000 translucent rods that act as fiber-optic filaments that channel sunlight into the pavilion’s interior. The densely-packed forest of filaments also contains the impetus to create living forests in the future — each 7.5 meter long “branch” contains seeds from the Millenium Seed Bank that will be given to China one the expo has run its course.

Nicknamed the “Dandelion”, Thomas Heatherwick‘s UK Pavilion bristles with a dynamic facade that gently flexes and shimmers with each passing breeze. The beautiful building envelope blurs the boundaries between architecture and animated sculpture, while the area surrounding the pavilion features a network of pedestrian walkways and a landscaped park area.

Nestled within the sprouting facade of seeds is an otherworldly interior that unfolds like a shimmering network of stars. During the day the interior is completely lit by daylight channeled through the structure’s transparent rods. At night the interior is illuminated by minute lighting elements contained within each rod for an amazing effect.

The pavilion was designed to convey the expo’s theme of “Better City, Better Life”. According to the architects, “The UK, with its millions of gardens, thousands of public parks and garden squares, has pioneered the integration of nature into cities as a way of making them healthier places, in which to live and work. 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.

The 2010 Shanghai Expo is set to begin in May, and once the festival has run its course, all 60,000 rods in the seed cathedral will be donated as a symbol of continued friendship between the UK and China. According to Professor Stephen Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, “Seeds stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank in the UK, and in our partners’ seed banks around the world, have the potential to enable human innovation, adaptation and resilience; helping current and future generations to lead better lives.

+ UK Pavilion

+ Thomas Heatherwick

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  3. davidwayneosedach April 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I hope that beautiful pavillion ends up in London! It would fit right in with this centuries UK.

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