‘With passion and commitment thousands of “small” people built Eden as a symbol of hope in action… We say, “Demand the impossible.” – Tim Smit, co-founder, the Eden Project
Ten years ago, there was a dirty old pit, an eyesore on the landscape to everyone who had to pass it by. Then a man came along with a big idea, to turn the space into a global garden where people could visit, learn and be inspired. The Eden Project began with Tim Smit at the helm, and Philip McMillan Browse and Peter Thoday behind him. Now, 10 years later, it is bigger than ever. Over 10 million people have visited the site, and many more have benefited from its work. It has grown over time, just like its plants and flowers.
Built on the site of a disused mine, the Eden Project was one of the Landmark Millennial projects celebrating the year 2000. The original pit was a 160-year-old disused china clay quarry. However, the Eden Project is more than just a reclaimed quarry, recognizable by its famous biome domes. It has morphed into an organization with projects and partnerships all over the world. Among its concerns are physical and social rehabilitation, community education, biodiversity and sustainable construction. Here we take a look at its wonderful history while enjoying some marvelous images of the place itself.
The Eden Project was designed to be as green as possible, and one of the first opportunities for those behind it came during its construction. It rained. And rained. Water was everywhere, collecting in the old pit. It was through this that the team came up with underground drainage systems that collect all the water. The water is then reused in the bathrooms and to irrigate the flowers and plants, while the rain that falls on top of the biome domes is used to boost humidity!
The idea was to build “lean-to greenhouses,” but the ground was very uneven, especially with the slopes. So, the architect came up with the idea of the famous “bubble” biome domes as a solution – while washing his hands! Bubbles will, after all, settle anywhere! The biggest biome, the Rainforest, could fit the Tower of London inside it, and the Guinness Book of World Records has listed the distinctive domes as the largest conservatories in the world.
The “green team” is made up of extreme gardeners – extreme because they often have to plant on vertical slopes. Pruning and looking after the tall trees of ‘Rainforest’ is done by abseiling or from inside a cherry picker platform. Green bugs and animals are taken up to the canopy by putting them in little pots and sending them aloft using ropes. The good bugs eat the pests without the need to use harsh, unnatural chemicals.
In their very first year, the Eden Project’s team knew they wanted to do more than just showcase plants and flowers grown in a responsible way. That was just the start. They also held their first music concert on the property for the public to enjoy, used as a way to raise awareness and funds. Then in 2005 they opened The Core, an education center. They have continued to grow not just locally, but internationally as well, establishing learning centers, and rebuilding parks in some areas, like the Peace Park in Kosovo.
The Eden Project has a very strong sense of the importance of the whole community and everyone getting involved. Some of its social programs are: gardening for the disabled; a scheme whereby homeless men have joined a soccer club and learned basic garden maintenance and IT work; teaching prisoners life skills; and supporting the unemployed through a work placement scheme. The homeless people and the prisoners worked together to build inspirational gardens and won two medals for their work at the Chelsea Flower Show. You can learn more here
The Eden Project’s website also has a section especially for the Eden Sessions, which are one day live music and comedy festivals held in the site’s natural amphitheater. All proceeds go to the project’s educational and charity programs. Seeing the beauty of the biomes behind the stage while listening to the fantastic music must surely inspire listeners to think about the world around them.
The Eden Project uses everything it can think of to make people think more responsibly and get involved in the world of nature. One aspect of this is placing artistic pieces in among the plants and outside, like this magnificent bee. Who can’t think of the need for pollinating flowers and the importance of the bees’ survival when they see this?
The Eden Project is a perfect example of how we can reclaim old mines and transform them into positives for the environment, the community, and the land itself. The team hasn’t limited itself to the originally quarry, however; they are now working with mining directors and construction companies to source from responsibly mined supply chains in a program called Rock to Roof. And in a further venture, The Post Mining Alliance, they are supporting reclamation of closed mines to make them useful both environmentally and to communities. They identify possible areas and work with the mining leader Rio Tinto to spread knowledge about possible land reclamation across the globe.
In the 10 years since the Eden Project began, it has not only been an unqualified success in terms of what it first set out to do, but a boon to the area and people locally and further afield. It has moved further to educate and support those either at risk or unable to get around easily. And it has developed and shared its knowledge worldwide.
The Eden Project has grown from a green conservatory to a venue that holds environmentally aware concerts, and hosts art and sculpture pieces, fun days out for the family, and most importantly uses its funds in charity work to continue to spread its message.
On March 3, The Eden Project is publishing a new, revised and updated edition of the book Eden, by Tim Smit, to celebrate its 10th year anniversary. Meet Tim himself, co-founder of the Eden Project, on the 15th of March, 2011 at 7pm at Bloomsbury Street Hotel in London for a talk and book signing Tickets are available here.