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The BBC's Jane O'Brien
"One of the country's most ambitious millennium projects"
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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
UK 'Garden of Eden' takes shape
Eden BBC
It will be another year before builders move out
By West of England correspondent Jane O'Brien

Rising from the bowels of a disused china clay pit in Cornwall, a new world is taking shape.

Vast domed greenhouses - big enough to encase the Tower of London - have transformed the industrial landscape into something more like a lunar city from a science fiction film.

It's actually very funny and wacky

Paul Travers Managing Director
This is the Eden Project, a 79m millennium scheme near St Austell that aims to show humankind's dependence on the plant world.

The first phase opens on Monday to visitors, who are able to see the new exhibition centre and tour the crater that is the size of 35 football pitches.

The two biggest biomes will house the Mediterranean and Humid Tropics displays. Forty-five metres (150 feet) high and almost a kilometre (0.5 mile) long, they look like giant insect eyes.

Foil 'pillows'

The scaffolding used to construct the steel frames was so big it gained two entries in the Guinness Book of Records. Glass would have been too heavy and inflexible for the domes' 728 hexagonal windows, so transparent foil "pillows" have been used instead.

Plant BBC
Plant species come from around the globe
Marketing director Paul Travers says the project makes science sexy.

"It's the Roald Dahl school of education. For instance, one of the exhibits in the visitor centre is called Dead Cat.

"It shows what happens if we take away all the plants we use every day without realising. Eventually, even the meat-eating family cat dies.

"It sounds a bit morbid but it's actually very funny and wacky and brings to life a very serious message."

Epic scale

The plants are still being grown in a nursery a few miles away and will be moved into place later in the year. Thousands of species have been collected from all over the world and will provide a unique centre of study.

Eden BBC
It claims to be the largest greenhouse in the world
But most research will be carried out elsewhere using revenue generated by the 750,000 visitors expected every year.

Even though this is being hailed as an environmental project on an epic scale, there have been reservations.

The extra traffic could increase pollution and cause even more problems on a road network notoriously congested in the summer.

But Cornwall is an area desperate for jobs and economic growth. Many hope this project really will become a Gateway to the Garden of Eden.

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19 Jun 98 | Millennium Dome
Why do we build to celebrate the millennium?
19 Jun 98 | Millennium Dome
What does the future look like?
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