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Eden rethought to sit lightly on the earth

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The Eden Project has been fundamentally rethought to form a series of linked geodesic domes. Nicholas Grimshaw, architect for the millennium project for a disused clay pit near St Austell, Cornwall, explained: 'It will be more organic, and will shape itself to the cliff face and the unevenness of the ground we are landing on.' Structural engineer Anthony Hunt, who described Eden as 'the most exciting project I have ever worked on', explained that the ground is extremely fractured, and that the geodesic solution is the lightest possible. It will also allow much off-site fabrication.

The structure will be made from steel tube, and 'glazed' with pillows of etfe (ethyltetrafluoroethylene) foil which will be inflated with air warmed by photovoltaic panels to provide insulation. The foil, which is only 0.5 mm thick and offers 97 per cent transparency, is tough enough to be walked on and is self-cleaning.

A number of small 'black boxes' around the site will feature interpretative displays on subjects ranging from paper making to roots.

About 1.2 million visits a year are expected, and a new railway station may be opened to serve the site. The £74 million project has received £37 million from the Millennium Commission, and is three-quarters of the way to raising the matching funding.

Peter Thoday, horticultural director of the newly formed Eden Botanical Institute, described its aim as 'to tackle the question of how on an overcrowded planet land can be apportioned between the needs of conservation and economic production'.

ARCHITECT: Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Anthony Hunt Associates

CONSULTING ENGINEER, ECONOMICS and PLANNING: Ove Arup & Partners

QS: Davis Langdon & Everest

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Land Use Consultants

COMMUNICATIONS AND DESIGN: Imagination

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