Millennium Seed Bank
West Sussex RH17 6TN
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
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
Place has a large garden with a variety of walking trails, well worth
a visit at the same time.
Books and other web
The Millennium Seed Bank's web
site, with visitor information and more detail on both the building and the
seed bank project, is at www.rbgkew.org.uk/msbp/index.html.
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