The Seed Cathedral: A Fiber-Optic Shrine to Mother Nature’s Reproductive Prowess

Considering all the nasty politics that have been dragged into today’s eco debate, it’s nice to see someone out there worshipping Mother Nature the old-fashioned way: by building a humongous, over-the-top structure that inspires awe regardless of where your politics lie. The Seed Cathedral at the Shanghai World Expo’s UK Pavillion is exactly that: a 66-feet-tall shrine accented with 60,000 25-feet-long fiber-optic rods on its exterior, each of which contains one or more seeds encased at its tip.

And awe-inspiring it certainly is. The rods funnel light into the Seed Cathedral’s interior during the day and carry interior light out outward at night, casting a beautiful glow around the structure. The fiber-optic rods sway in the breeze, conjuring images of tall stalks of grass waving in the wind or even the tiny filament hairs that grow on some seeds. From inside, the movement of the clouds above and the swaying of the fibers can give the sensation that cathedral is moving, or perhaps breathing.

The seeds were provided by China’s Kunming Institute of Botany, a partner with the UK’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens’s Millennium Seed Bank Project, which aims to stockpile seeds from a quarter of the world’s total plant species by 2020. After the Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, the fiber-optic rods and their encased seeds will be distributed to schools in the UK and China.