The Eden Project stole the show at the British Construction Industry Awards (BCIA) in 2001, taking the major project honour. OK, it was a millennium project that didn’t officially open until 17 March 2001. But the honour was well justified.
This visionary £57M scheme transformed a disused china clay pit in Cornwall into the world’s largest greenhouse. The Eden Project has subsequently been further extended and become one of the UK’s best known attractions.
The project is instantly recognisable by its distinctive biome structures - the tallest of which is 55m high. This comprises steel space frames supporting ethyltetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) foil glazing.
The two biome structures comprise four connected geodesic domes based on a grid of hexagons. The domes enable the structure to be completely self-supporting. The glazing has a double skin of ETFE that is gently pressurised to stiffen each hexagon panel and improve thermal performance. The lightweight material allows longer glazing spans of up to 11m increasing the amount of light flowing in.
BCIA judges praised the project team including architect Grimshaw, structural engineer Anthony Hunt Associates and contractor Sir Robert and Alfred McAlpine for overcoming a considerable cut in the original budget. They also had to tackle difficult ground conditions that often reduced the site to a “quagmire”.
“Eden is on a vast scale and is delivered with unswerving and brilliant vision, executed with the best modern design and engineering in Europe - the entire gamut of industry skills, from geotechnics to fit-outs, is apparent in this tour de force of design and construction. Eden was against the odds but those involved made it happen. It is brilliant in concept, vision and construction and a major attraction in the south west,” said the judges in 2001.
It is hard to argue with them. Since opening to the public nearly 13M people have visited the site, earning the local economy over £1bn. It goes from strength to strength - a millennium project