The Eden Project in County Cornwall, England is the world’s premier example of greening and repurposing an ecologically-damaged former mining site. Cornwall is the UK’s poorest county, having lost the majority of its traditional jobs when the ubiquitous china clay mines closed down.
The landscape is thus littered with these dead spots. But one of those dead spots came back to life, thanks to a visionary named Sir Tim Smit, who wrote an excellent book about the experience, titled Eden. The Eden Project, which is sort of an “eco-Disneyland”, is Cornwall’s largest private employer, generating some ₤1.7 billion in economic benefits to the region since 2001. But its primary mission is environmental education.
Now, on July 24, 2017, the Eden Project announced that it is launching a new company to drive the establishment of Edens around the world. Eden Project International Ltd (EPIL) is a new entity formed as part of the Eden Trust to partner with like-minded organisations to deliver the Eden mission and to deliver social and ecological benefits during a time of global environmental decline and social disruption.
The new projects will focus on the big global challenges as defined by their specific localities (e.g. soil, water, food, biodiversity) and will work in collaboration with a wide variety of organisations, companies, communities, research and conservation groups.At the helm of the new company are Co-Founder of the Eden Project Sir Tim Smit, who has been appointed Executive Chairman of EPIL, and Eden Project Executive Director David Harland, who has taken up the role of Chief Executive of the international company.
The ambition of the new wing of the Eden Project is to advance the Eden mission by establishing collaborative Eden projects with international partners across the globe. It will also undertake consultancy services for new and existing projects in a range of areas.
Sir Tim said today: “Eden’s mission is to explore our dependence on the natural world, to use that understanding to excite people into delivering transformation where they live and to ask really serious questions about what a great future might look like for all of us. We want the new Edens to act as a heartbeat for those who feel the same way as we do and to develop in all of them the ability to tell the stories that inspire the people who are their constituency.”
Sir Tim added: “We need to green the desert of our mind, we need to fertilise our imagination and we need to believe that the future remains ours to make.”
The launch of the new company comes after four successive years of consistently healthy trading by the Eden Project, which first opened in a disused china clay quarry near St Austell in Cornwall in 2001. Its latest accounts, for 2016/17, showed a cash surplus from trading of more than £1.6 million. Turnover and visitor numbers have also increased significantly.
During 2016, four per cent more people than the previous year visited Eden and numbers in December were the best ever for that month. For the first time since 2011, Eden welcomed more than one million visitors in a 12-month period. In its first 16 years, Eden has attracted more than 19 million visitors and generated £1.7 billion for the regional economy.
The new international team will also be responsible for delivering a number of projects in the UK. Chief Executive of Eden Project International David Harland said: “This is an incredibly exciting moment for the Eden Project as we seek to work with new audiences across the globe with our vision for a global network of Eden Projects. New professional jobs will be created both in Cornwall and abroad with Eden in Cornwall acting as our research and development hub for new ideas and innovations.”
Eden Project International is currently working on three projects in China and others in Australia and New Zealand. Other overseas projects, including some in the Middle East and North America, are due to be announced in the coming months.
Eden is working on the China, Australia, and New Zealand projects with Grimshaw Architects, who designed the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes at the Eden Project.
Grimshaw Partner Jolyon Brewis said: “We are delighted to support Eden Project International Ltd on a number of ventures around the world. Grimshaw’s relationship with Eden Project spans over 20 years and we are proud to help bring Eden’s ethos to new audiences through unique architecture, landscapes and immersive content; all delivered with characteristic joy.”
Eden Qingdao will explore the theme of water and its importance for life on earth. The project is still on the drawing board, with construction due to begin later this year. As with similar projects it will link with other Eden Project centres around the world, sharing content and programmes. This will be an Eden Project for China but with a global relevancy.
The second major project in China is in the historic city of Yan’an (pictured at top), famed for being the end of Chairman Mao’s Long March and north of the Xian, home of the terracotta warriors.
This project will explore the theme of land and soil and its importance for life on earth. The project will showcase ecological restoration as a vital tool for the future and restore a degraded site just outside the city into a fertile valley full of flowers, agriculture, craft and education. A feasibility report is complete and Eden Project International is now ready to present its plans. Like Eden Qingdao, It will link with other Edens around the world, sharing content and programmes.
The third Eden project in China is based at Sheng Lu Vineyard in Beijing. The aim is to create a place to reconnect with nature. Education and training programmes will run from here, offering the chance for children and adults to play in natural environment.
Eden has been asked to provide support in turning the vineyard into a profitable and educational visitor attraction as well as supporting education and offering horticultural and landscaping advice.
Macquarie Point Development Corporation (MPDC) of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, approached Eden as the corporation is looking to regenerate an environmentally-damaged piece of land (15 hectares) around the port area. MPDC contacted Eden as they were seeking a flagship/anchor for the mixed-use development.
Hobart itself is a rapidly developing city with an alternative side which has been brought to the fore by the Museum of Old & New Art (MONA). This project fits with Eden’s ethos as it will transform a polluted, discarded site, as well as ensuring the Eden message can reach a new audience.
In Christchurch, Eden is working with a local trust to develop plans for a social enterprise and attraction in an area of the earthquake-damaged Red Zone. Here Eden will explore stories of nature and culture and will include restoration of native ecology along the iconic River Avon shoreline. There will be benefits for the community and tourism with the aim of boosting visitors to the city again. The project is currently in the early stages of concept development.