After the unprecedented success of the Eden Project's revolutionary biomes, any further building on the site would have a tough act to follow. The latest structure to take shape in this disused Cornish clay pit might not be as massive as the neighbouring biomes, but as an engineered structure it is every bit as awe-inspiring.
The Core provides a centre for the Eden Project's educational activities and as education is at the heart of the Eden concept, its importance cannot be overestimated.
Architect Nicholas Grimshaw envisaged The Core as an iconic, organic plant-like structure taking its shape from nature. The obvious pattern was the Fibonacci spiral, familiar in the structure of many natural phenomena, from snail shells to sunflowers. To develop the concept into a usable building required the input and co-operation of a wide range of skills, from the artistic influence of Eden's resident sculptor Peter Randall-Smith to the pragmatic advice on buildability provided by joint venture contractors Alfred and Sir Robert McAlpine.
It was Mr Randall-Smith who pointed out that the initial concept design was unnaturally symmetrical; in nature the spiral progression, or phyllotaxis, is tighter in one direction than in the opposite direction. This rather aggravated the task facing structural engineer SKM Anthony Hunt whose job it was to plot the node points within the roof structure. The McAlpine JV offered to simplify things - and provide up to ú250,000 cost savings - by suggesting a single spiral. But the design team felt this was not true to the spirit of the design and the double-spiral was retained.
A key contributor to the practical interpretation of the design was Swiss contractor Haring which supplied the 400 cu m of glulam beam. No two beams were identical; all were double-curved, and yet they were all built on just two jigs.
Conscious of the potential cost and programme implications of such a complex design, the McAlpine JV implemented and led a value engineering exercise which succeeded in achieving savings while safeguarding the essential qualities of the project.