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Seed Cathedral

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In Shanghai, the talk is of one thing only. It stands 60 feet high, looks like a giant pincushion and it sways in the breeze. It's called The Seed Cathedral and we, the people of the United Kingdom, have sent it as a gift.

Seed Cathedral is no ordinary pavilion, and designer Thomas Heatherwick is no ordinary designer. His work has a big effect on people and the increasing popularity of it is testament to his desire to make design comprehensible to people who don't understand the first thing about it. The tabloid press in particular have struggled to find the right words to describe Seed Cathedral, one paper came up with, a hedgehog you'll never run over.

By far the most inventive creative mind working in the UK today, Heatherwick projects are diverse, innovative and breathtaking. They range from small-scale items like a zipped bag, to large-scale monuments like The B of the Bang. Each one stops you, makes you think, and as much as the tabloids may mock it, Seed Cathedral is his most original statement yet.

Of course, this pavilion for the 2010 World Expo held in Shanghai is a little unusual. The 60ft-high construction boasts 60,000 plant seeds, a seed from every plant in the world, individually encased in eight-metre-long wavy acrylic fibres.

So with a little wind, the fibres sway and create the same ripple effect you'd see in a field of long grass. It's an extraordinary concept.

In an interview Heatherwick said, It was a challenge to find something to say about Britain other than Beefeaters, black cabs, double-deckers and bowler hats.

The one thing that Britain could add was a dimension of nature. The world's first botanical institute, and the world's first public park was British. London, for its size, has more green spaces than any other city in the world.

Our relationship with botanics is not just about the world being pleasantly green. It offers solutions to medical and environmental problems, and has an effect on economies. I wanted the pavilion to say that this is an area we have helped pioneer.

The Shanghai Expo opens its doors on 1st May 2010. You can read more about it here. Oh, and if you're waiting for Heatherwick's pavilion to arrive in the UK, sadly you'll be disappointed. Most of the materials will be reused or recycled at the end of the Expo.

John Fountain is senior writer at Avvio


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