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Kew seed bank on show at Shanghai Expo

2009. 10 July

by Magda Ibrahim

( A World Expo exploring the potential of sustainability in urban life is to feature a UK pavilion incorporating thousands of seeds.

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank has provided the central theme for the UK Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010. Developed by designer Thomas Heatherwick, the design — which follows the theme "nature in cities" — aims to demonstrate innovation on climate change in the UK.

The theme of the Shanghai Expo 2010 is Better City, Better Life and the centrepiece of the UK's offering is the six-storey pavilion building formed from 60,000 slender, transparent rods, which will extend from the structure and quiver in the breeze.

The pavilion will sit on a landscape that provides an open space for public events. Heatherwick said: "The Expo in Shanghai will be an amazing event; around 200 countries will be competing for the attention of 70 million visitors.

"Our task is to make the UK pavilion stand out. We decided to do this by making one extraordinary object, not recognisable in conventional terms, set in a calm, open site. Each visitor will be able to explore both in their own way."

Inside the pavilion building there will be a visual representation of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership, which aims to conserve 25 per cent of the world's wild plant species by 2020.

Tens of thousands of seeds will be encased into the ends of the transparent rods giving visitors an opportunity to view examples of seeds of plant species that contribute to national and global conservation programmes.

The seeds have been sourced from the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, Kunming Institute of Botany, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in China — a collaborator in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership.

Construction was formally started in March on China's annual national tree planting day. Heatherwick Studio is working with consultancy and construction company Mace to build the structure.

The World Expo in Shanghai, which will run from 1 May to 31 October 2010, will be the largest ever staged. The Expo Park will occupy 5.3sq km of land on the Pu Dong area of the city, on the south side of the Huangpu River.