Millennium Seed Bank
Wakehurst Place
West Sussex RH17 6TN
United Kingdom

Stanton Williams 2000

The core of the Millennium Seed Bank - officially the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building - is an underground frozen vault, which preserves the world's largest collection of seeds: three million individual seeds, already covering nearly all the UK's flora and with plans to hold 10 percent of the world's dry lands' flora. Organizationally part of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew in west London, it is a future-looking project built with funds from the Millennium Commission and its future-oriented commercial sponsors.

Above ground are laboratory buildings in which seeds are dried and prepared for freezing, and in which researchers explore how to preserve the awkward varieties of seed that are damaged by that process. In the middle of these laboratories is a public space that is both a museum of the Seed Bank's work and an attractive indoor winter garden. In the words of the architect, 

'The overall design of the building aims to create a dialogue between internal and external spaces that should both inspire and focus the mind on the global importance of seed collection and bio-diversity. At best, the project will evoke a sense of spirituality. Both adult and child should leave the Seed Bank feeling enriched.'

In addition to its exhibits, the museum is built to allow direct observation by the public through large windows into the laboratory areas, where the lab staff are permanently on show as they work. I don't know what the lab staff think of this - in part because I, presumably like many others, visited at a weekend, when most of what you see though the windows are pristinely kept work tables.

Externally the building keeps a low profile, and is seen only once you are some way inside the Wakehurst Place estate within which it sits. Stanton Williams intended it as a 'building that does not shout or wave banners, but sits quietly in the landscape, grounded, held by the line of the horizon.'


Simon Glynn 2001

How to visit

The Millennium Seed Bank is open to the public and located within the estate of Wakehurst Place, also part of Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. It is located North of Ardingly, West Sussex on the B2028, five miles southeast of Exit 10A of the M23 motorway (and about eight miles southeast of London Gatwick Airport). The last bit is on local roads, but with good signposting to Wakehurst Place (brown signposts).

Wakehurst Place has a large garden with a variety of walking trails, well worth a visit at the same time.

Books and other web sites

The Millennium Seed Bank's web site, with visitor information and more detail on both the building and the seed bank project, is at

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