Sir Tim Smit looks like he will finally achieve his ambition for a Chinese Eden, after signing off on a £100m ($152m, €135m) partnership with leading developer China Jinmao Holdings.
The contract for the project – the result of nearly 14 months of negotiations by Smit – was signed in Beijing on 20 September. China Eden is the entrepreneur’s first big building venture overseas and his largest undertaking since the Eden Project opened in a former clay pit in Cornwall in 2001.
The tourism and education destination will be located in Qingdao on the east coast of China, which attracts 63 million tourists a year. The site – which overlooks the whole city – is derelict and environmentally-damaged where the land was once used for salt production and then prawn breeding. Now it will be transformed, fitting in with Eden’s commitment to regeneration and its green credentials.
”We have been approached many times before to create Eden projects, but have always declined as we did not wish to copy Eden in Cornwall,” Smit says. “This opportunity is exciting because our partners share our view that we should build a project that builds on 4,000 years of Chinese relations with the environment and Eden’s fresh approach to education.”
“It feels like we have been given the opportunity to do something very special and important and we are proud to take all that is best from the UK to forge new partnerships in China – for it is here above all other places on earth that the shape of our collective future will be set over the next 20 years,” Smit says.
Since opening, more than 16 million people have visited the Eden Project, which has generated £1.6bn ($2.4bn, €2.2bn) for the wider economy. Among many awards, it was recently named the top British landmark of the 21st century.
Grimshaw, designers of the original Eden Project, has been appointed as lead architects for the new development. Plans for a site in Beijing are also in the pipeline.