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Shanghai Seedling
Geoff Manaugh, 1 Apr 10

I have to admit that, however over-exposed this building might be, it is one of the coolest architectural constructions I've seen in a long time—and while I say that in the most superficial way imaginable, i.e. I just think it looks really, really cool, this structure, the so-called "Seed Cathedral" by Thomas Heatherwick, under construction in Shanghai for this summer's 2010 World Expo, has an amazing ulterior motive: at the end of every one of the 60,000 transparent acrylic rods that you see fuzzing outward into the sunlight are the seeds of plants.

[Image: The seeds revealed; photo by Aly Song for Reuters, via The Big Picture].

The result looks very much like an expansion of Heatherwick's earlier work Sitooterie II, but the final design also incorporates seeds from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank project.

From the New York Times last autumn: "Heatherwick and his team worked with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership to showcase Britain’s commitment to conservation. They encased thousands of seeds in the ends of the transparent rods, creating a larger-than-life catalog of the plant species that contribute to national and global conservation programs, in a veritable cathedral of seeds."

[Images: Thomas Heatherwick's "Seed Cathedral" prepares to open in Shanghai; photos by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images; STR/AFP/Getty Images; and AP; all via The Big Picture].

Seed vaults have long been of interest here, of course, but this non-doomsday-inspired celebration of terrestrial botany is, for me, surprisingly much more thrilling than some top secret polar room predicated on an end-of-the-world agricultural scenario. Perhaps every town should have its own seed cathedral, blur-buildings of acrylic rods to showcase their local flora.

A version of this post originally appeared on BLDGBLOG.

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