In September 2007, Heatherwick Studio led the winning team in the competition to design the UK Pavilion for the Shanghai 2010 Expo. The event is set to be the largest Expo ever with two hundred countries taking part and over 70 million visitors expected.
The theme of the Expo is “Better City, Better Life” and a key client objective is for the UK Pavilion to be one of the five most popular attractions. The studio’s design has three main aims: the first is to be a pavilion whose architecture is a direct manifestation of the content it exhibits; the second is to provide significant public open space in which visitors can relax; the third is to find a simple idea that is strong enough to stand out amidst the busy-ness of the hundreds of competing pavilions.
These aims are captured in two interlinked and experiential elements based around the subject of nature and cities – Seed Cathedral, and a multi-layered landscape treatment of the 6,000sqm site. The Seed Cathedral is a platform to show the work of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and their Millennium Seedbank. In the circulation zone under the landscape that surrounds the Seed Cathedral a series of installations explore in more detail the particularity of nature and UK cities.
The Seed Cathedral is a 20-metre high building, constructed from 60,000 transparent 7.5-metre long optical strands, each of which has embedded within its tip a seed. The interior is silent and illuminated only by the daylight that has filtered past each seed through each optical hair; a quiet space in which to contemplate this formidable collection of the world’s botanical resources.