Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eden Project (United Kingdom)

The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall in the United Kingdom, including the world's largest greenhouse. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world. The project is located in a reclaimed Kaolinite pit, located 1.25 mi (2 kilometres) from the town of St Blazey and 5 kilometres (3 mi) from the larger town of St Austell, Cornwall. The complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species, and each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. The first dome emulates a tropical environment, and the second a Mediterranean environment. 

Design and construction

The project was conceived by emaly-rose and designed by architect Nicholas Grimshaw and engineering firm Anthony Hunt and Associates (now part of Sinclair Knight Merz). Davis Langdon carried out the project management, Sir Robert McAlpine and Alfred McAlpine did the construction and MERO designed and built the biomes. Land Use Consultants led the masterplan and landscape design. The project took 2½ years to construct and opened to the public on 17 March 2001. 


Once into the attraction, there is a meandering path with views of the two biomes, planted landscapes, including vegetable gardens, and sculptures that include a giant bee and towering robot created from old electrical appliances.


At the bottom of the pit are two covered biomes: The Tropical Biome, covers 1.56 hectares (3.9 acres) and measures 55 metres (180 ft) high, 100 metres (328 ft) wide and 200 metres (656 ft) long. It is used for tropical plants, such as fruiting banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo, and is kept at a tropical temperature and moisture level. The Mediterranean Biome covers 0.654 hectares (1.6 acres) and measures 35 metres (115 ft) high, 65 metres (213 ft) wide and 135 metres (443 ft) long. 

It houses familiar warm temperate and arid plants such as olives and grape vines and various sculptures. The Outdoor Biome (which is not covered) represents the temperate regions of the world with plants such as tea, lavender, hops, hemp and sunflowers. The covered biomes are constructed from a tubular steel (hex-tri-hex) with mostly hexagonal external cladding panels made from the thermoplastic ETFE. Glass was avoided due to its weight and potential dangers. 

The cladding panels themselves are created from several layers of thin UV-transparent ETFE film, which are sealed around their perimeter and inflated to create a large cushion. The resulting cushion acts as a thermal blanket to the structure. The ETFE material is resistant to most stains, which simply wash off in the rain. If required, cleaning can be performed by abseilers. Although the ETFE is susceptible to punctures, these can be easily fixed with ETFE tape. The structure is completely self-supporting, with no internal supports, and takes the form of a geodesic structure. The panels vary in size up to 9 metres (29.5 ft) across, with the largest at the top of the structure. 

The ETFE technology was supplied and installed by the firm Vector Foiltec, which is also responsible for ongoing maintenance of the cladding. The steel spaceframe and cladding package (with Vector Foiltec as ETFE subcontractor) was designed, supplied and installed by MERO (UK) PLC, who also jointly developed the overall scheme geometry with the architect, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners. The entire build project was managed by McAlpine Joint Venture.


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