Sustainable Cities™

Cornwall: Eden adds value

Can modern English garden architecture help transform recession into growth ? Cornwall's days of industrial glory were over long ago when production moved abroad. The area needed a new identity and new jobs. Tim Smit is the man behind 'The Eden Project', which has created growth of 800 million pounds. English gardening tradition provided fertile soil for a world-class architectural project and 9 million visitors have planted firmly on the world map. This green idea has verily sprouted.


For more than 200 years. Kaolin (china clay) was gouged out from under the ground in Cornwall. However, since kaolin is no longer in short supply, competition is ruthless. The industry has moved abroad and been replaced by social problems and economic hardship. In fact, things got so bad in 2002 that the area received 300 million euros in EU subsidies.

"I personally believe that the joint challenge of a recession and having to confront the issues of climate change are exactly what we needed in terms of waking us up to realise that maybe we need to do business in a different way..." - says Tim Smit, the man behind The Eden Project.


Tim Smit's mission was to transform economic recession into something positive - contributing to the local community while at the same time putting sustainability on the global agenda. On the background of a previous project of his 'The Lost Gardens of Helligan', which was the most popular garden in terms of visitor numbers in all England, he launched himself at this new innovative garden project. He was going to show that it was possible to run a business based on sustainability and which bears a social responsibility in the local community.

The garden has not only created new jobs, but also provided fertile soil for new commercial undertakings. The Eden Project endeavours, whenever possible, to support local companies and encourage them to produce their wares in accordance with sustainable principles. For instance, 78% of the food made at Eden's cafe is produced locally. The same applies to 50% of other products sold there. In addition to this, the Eden Project has created enormous tourist industry, which in turn has created related industry.

As a socially aware company, the Eden Project is involved in a number of activities in the local area and teaching is fundamental to the project. Alternative teaching involved 25,000 children on short or extended courses on the significance of plants to humans and how to look after the land.

"we don't show people a bar of chocolate, we show them a coco tree" - says head of media relations David Rowe, as an example of Eden's approach to teaching.

Apart from this, the Eden Project is involved in a project involving the loacl prison. The prison yeards have been transformed into green spaces where the inmates tend gardens and grow vegetables. It has been a tremendous success and both the inmates and the staff are pleased with it. The vegetables are used in the prison kitchen to provide a healthy, nutitious diet.

Many years of mining scarred the countryside. Kaolin is extracted in the same way as gravel, leaving huge pits in the landscape. It is in one of these pits that the Eden Project is located within six distinctive domes. They have transformed something which was previously considered as a sore in the open landscape, a reminder of a depressing past, into a window to the future.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014