Grimshaw, the international architectural practice responsible for the highly-acclaimed Eden project, is investigating the potential of using a brownfield site in the North of England on which to develop an eco-friendly botanical visitor attraction that will display a ‘slice’ of rainforest.
The focal point of the proposed landscaped park would be a greenhouse, cutting slightly into the landscape. This enclosure would house plant and animal life, recreating the ecosystems of the tropical regions of the world. Aerial walkways would cross the enclosure at varying heights and pathways and wind around the perimeter, drawing the visitor from the canopy down through the different strata to the forest floor. The entrance to the enclosure would be at canopy level, opening on to a crashing waterfall and views across the treetops.
The Inspiration for the new design came from the pineapple sheds at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which are heated by a mixture of decomposing bark and horse manure. Using the principle of deriving heat energy from the decomposition of domestic waste, the new attraction would sport fifty-metre-high gabion walls around the enclosure that would contain composting tubes.
While the building would be heated by solar power for much of the year, during the colder months the heat exchange tubes would transfer the low-grade heat emissions to the enclosure to create a warm, saturated environment necessary to rainforest life. An automated delivery system would transfer the biodegradable waste from lorries to the tubes.
The roof structure would be based on a planar glazing system supported by double bowstring trusses that span between the outer walls. Because much of the enclosure would be set into the terrain, this angled glass plane would be the most visual element from the exterior. The shape of the enclosure would be based on three converging circles. Grimshaw believes that the undulating form would enhance the visitor experience by gradually revealing different aspects of the enclosure.