Try to Create Eighth Wonder of the World
England (Reuters) - In a tiny corner of England on
a peninsula jutting out into the sea, scientists are
trying to create the Eighth Wonder of the World.
are building a garden in a huge quarry crater containing
three of the world's climate zones under gigantic
geodesic domes -- the highest and largest free-standing
scaffolding structure on the planet.
the Eden Project is complete next spring, it will
house more than 80,000 plants in a cathedral-sized
tropical rain forest, in lush Mediterranean groves
with olive and citrus trees and in the native climate
of Cornwall in England.
size of 35 football fields, it will be the world's
biggest greenhouse -- large enough to hold the leaning
Tower of Pisa under its domed ceiling. Adam and Eve
will be missing but a hissing serpent will remind
visitors of the consequences of global warming.
have something unique,'' said Sir Ghillean Prance,
a former director of Britain's Royal Botanical Gardens
and an adviser to the Eden Project.
Kendle, a restoration ecologist at Reading University
who has also worked on the project, describes it as
a showcase for conservation and biodiversity. ``It
is what conservation philosophy will be about in the
next century,'' he said.
country roads on England's southernmost tip, the geodesic
structures -- bigger than the Millennium Dome in London
-- are hidden from view in the deep former clay quarry,
protected from the coastal winds. The massive domes,
due to be completed by September, seem to sprout up
mysteriously from the harsh landscape as visitors
approach the building site.
its unfinished state, the Eden Project, a charity
and educational institute, has already attracted up
to 4,000 visitors a day. Organizers hope to lure 75,000
visitors a year when the 80 million pound ($120 million)
project is completed next year, giving a big boost
to Cornwall, which has been designated one of the
poorest areas in the European Union.
a unique after-use of a quarry,'' construction facilities
manager Neal Barnes said of the unusual problems the
site and structure posed. ``It is designed to take
maximum advantage of the sun.''
even beginning to build the domes, construction crews
shifted 1.8 million tons of earth and designed a drainage
and recycling system to handle the 20,000 bathfuls
of water a day that come onto the site.
structure spans 360 feet at its widest point with
no internal supports. The builders chose a material
called ETFE (ethyl tetra fluoro ethylene) to cover
each hexagonal panel because it is lighter than glass
and not degraded by sunlight.
is extremely strong, very lightweight and more transparent
than glass, antistatic and self-cleaning,'' said Barnes.
``It is also expected to last at least 25 years.''
layers of ETFE are welded together at the edges to
form huge pillows that are inflated more than six
feet deep. Each pillow is strong enough to hold the
weight of an entire football team and bigger than
inspiring as the structures are, the real focus of
the Eden Project is the tens of thousands of plants
they will contain. The project's mission is to promote
an understanding of the importance of plants and their
relationship to humans.
was the brainchild of scientists Philip McMillan Browse,
Peter Thoday and Tim Smit, who were working on the
restoration of the lost gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.
``This project is driven by individuals -- by the
people who dreamed up the idea,'' McMillan Browse
hatched the idea over countless pints of beer in country
pubs. It was originally designed to attract more tourists
to the rural area, economically blighted by the loss
of local industry and increasingly dependent on vacationers
who flock to its unspoiled beaches and countryside.
decided we had to do something pretty big and thought
'Why don't we build the biggest greenhouse in the
world?''' said McMillan Browse, bubbling with the
enthusiasm that sparked the project. ``It is a botanical
garden for the 21st century.''
the odds and without a formal board or bureaucratic
committees, the original triumvirate and a dedicated
team secured a grant from Britain's Millennium Commission
in October 1998 and were on their way.
contrast to the Millennium Dome -- the much-criticized
London attraction that has had difficulty enticing
tourists -- Eden's team has been taken aback by the
stream of visitors to the building site.
Eden Project will close temporarily in September to
allow the scientists to begin transferring the plants
they have been growing for the past two years in a
nearby nursery in preparation for the opening next
the tropics, warm temperate and temperate domes --
plus a visitor center, restaurant, outdoor amphitheater,
classrooms and a host of educational ploys incorporating
science with theater, art and music -- are complete,
the Eden team hope visitors will be inspired by what
will be a powerful magnet in bringing people to Cornwall
and to Britain,'' Thoday said.
June 20, 2000