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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Fri...

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“So what do you need, besides a miracle?”

“Seeds. Lot’s of seeds.”



Know where that’s from? If so leave your guess in the comments. Until you get there put your hands in the air, it’s Friday! It’s Architecture Week! And we’re talking genetic material in the form of seeds! Sweet, right?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “what do seeds have to do with architecture?”

Oh I don’t know. Just the obvious fact that without seeds there’d be no food; and without food there’d be no life; and without life there’d be no Architecture. Reason enough to build a suitably cool display for them. No?

Yes! Enter the UK Seed Pavilion, in Shanghai. Though I’ve not been to it, I still think it’s awesome. It’s that “hairy” cube built for the Shanghai Expo 2010. I know, 2010, it’s so last year. But it’s got 60,000 acrylic rods! Each one containing the seeds of a different plant. It makes me wonder how much sixty-thousand, unique, acrylic fabrications cost?

It’s difficult to gauge its exact size and scale from this view.

Most people say brush, I say cockle-burr. Whatever is conjured in one’s mind, it’s got a nice scale to it. It’s refreshingly human.

Exterior detail of the acrylic rods. They all appear to extend equally to some exterior offset “envelope”.

The acrylic rods appear to be of varying lengths from the inside. Each rod contains a unique species, and is a unique length. It boggles my mind a bit; how to go about manufacturing them in a cost effective way? Just imagine the coordination it took to get all the pieces in the right place.

Maybe the acrylic rods are made of modular assemblies that can be attached to each other, in order to construct different lengths? Difficult to say.


While the UK Seed Pavilion is a really beautiful seed display. I don’t think it’ll be easy to extract them for planting should the need arise. While I’m no botanist, I doubt they’d be viable anyway. So how do you preserve plant bio-diversity in a viable manner?

Easy. You gather plant seeds from a whole bunch of different species, and stick those seeds in the fridge.

Welcome to the
Svalbard Seed Vault! The world’s refrigerator. This facility has been dug into the permafrost of Norway! It’s like an arctic NORAD for seeds. While it has no war room It is secure, very secure; and Svalbard is a way cooler name. Also it’s sited at high enough elevation to avoid inundation should the ice-caps melt.

The Plan, small but clear. On the left is a parking lot. There are two trucks parked in it. See the shaded area? That’s permafrost baby!

That’s Longyearbyen, the capitol of Svalbard. Clearly it’s a teeming metropolis.

The entrance to the vault. Apparently the Longyearbyen zoning ordinance doesn’t require fully screened equipment.

The vista to downtown.

I’m guessing this door is frequently obstructed by snow. Notice the electrical conduit routed through the louvers - nice.

The vault access tunnel. The permafrost walls will prevent temperature rise in the event of cooling system failure. Yes there is a refrigeration system for this facility - go figure.

What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.