The “Seed Cathedral,” Thomas Heatherwick’s new UK pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, is composed of 60,000 translucent rods “that act as fiber-optic filaments that channel sunlight into the pavilion’s interior,” writes Inhabitat. Each 7.5-meter “branch” of the building also contains seeds from the Millennium Seed Bank, a program run by the Royal Botanical Society at Kew Gardens. Once the expo is completed, the built-in seeds will be removed from the rods and given to the Chinese government.
Inhabitat writes that the building breaks down the boundaries between architecture and sculpture. “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.” During the day, the interior will be lit by daylight, while at night each rod’s embedded lighting elements will turn on, illuminating the rods from the interior.
The architects say the pavilion is a commentary on how the British approach the relationship between the natural and built worlds. “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.”
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) chief executive officer Sir Andrew Cahn told the Daily Mail that the new building would also help rebrand the UK in the eyes of modern Chinese. “The Chinese view of Britain is a rather old-fashioned one; it’s all to do with Britain as being a heritage country, a traditional economy – there’s an awful lot of cobblestones and fog. It our hope that updating Chinese preconceptions will attract foreign investors and students to Britain, as well as encourage exports between the two countries.”
The £25 million building was organized by UKTI. Seven other UK government agencies were also involved. David Miliband, UK Foreign Minister, who has been visiting Chinese officials this week to discuss nuclear energy cooperation, opened the building in Shanghai.
Image credit: Thomas Heatherwick, UK Pavilion / Inhabitat