Friday, June 10, 2011

The Seed Cathedral by Elaine Lockey

photo by Heatherwick Studio
In case you missed it, art and horticulture combined for an amazing exhibit last year. Called the Seed Cathedral, the sculpture was composed of 60,000 fiber optic rods with seeds implanted on the tip of each one. The Seed Cathedral’s goal was to raise awareness of the global race to save seeds and the growing number of seed banks that safely preserve these seeds. Created for the 2010 World Expo held in Shanghai, it was designed by English designer Thomas Heatherwick. 

The structure was lit from within at dark and during the day the rods captured and funneled the sunlight highlighting the seeds within.  The structure also gently swayed in the breeze giving it life.  It was nicknamed pu gong ying or “The Dandelion” by Chinese visitors. How many seeds were in it? More than 217,000! Visitors could go inside it for a completely immersive experience. 

photo by Daniele Mattioli
At 66 feet tall it took over four months to build at a rate of 536 rods a day. Seeds came from China’s Kumming Institute of Botany, a partner in Kew Royal Botanic Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank Project. The Millennium Seed Bank Project’s goal is to collect 25% of the world’s plants seeds by 2020.  A recent update on their website states, "Working with our network of partners across 50 countries, we have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species."

While it is now dismantled, fortunately the sculpture is still being put to a good use.  The preserved seeds in their capsules were donated to many schools and research institutes in China and England. 

A beautiful video of the Seed Cathedral can be viewed at