‘Eden’ is a word synonymous with paradise or the Biblical garden home of Adam and Eve, and has connotations with a state of pure bliss and happiness… so it was with optimism that I boarded a train at London Paddington bound for Cornwall and the Eden Project. Just over four hours later I arrived at St Austell, where the public are encouraged to walk or cycle to the eco visitor attraction. However directions are cryptic to say the least, beginning with heading east out of the station (I didn’t have a compass on me!) and then to dog-leg over Sandy Hill (an instruction which still eludes me!), and an inebriated local who helpfully pointed me in the wrong direction. With limited WiFi I finally managed to navigate my way through the hilly terrain to the former clay-pit which now houses the iconic biomes and twenty-acres of outdoor gardens. Visitors are welcomed by contrived branding and an eco theme dominates the entire site; from the carparks named after different fruits (banana, plum, apple and kiwi to name a few) to the sculptures created entirely from waste which litter the gardens. Despite boasting the worlds’ largest indoor rainforest, this biome was little more than an overinflated plastic-bag filled with palm trees and manufactured humidity. The Mediterranean biome was preferable with distinct geographical areas ranging from Southern Europe to California, Western Australia and South Africa – but again contained nothing that can’t be seen at Kew Gardens, other greenhouses, or indeed on a walk in the natural environments being mimicked. The Core Building did contain an engaging exhibition in conjunction with The Wellcome Collection featuring striking images captured on medical cameras and other advances in science-technology. Admission is a costly £27.50 and although your ticket acts as an annual pass, I doubt I’ll be returning anytime soon!
I’d describe myself as a fledgling cyclist yet have already been the unhappy recipient of a Penalty Notice for Disorder and a £60 fine courtesy of the Royal Parks Police on my way to work one morning, so was eager to educate myself more about the UK’s fastest growing method of urban transport at the ‘Cycle Revolution’ exhibition. Visitors are greeted by Ben Wilson’s steel sculpture created from bike frames in the museum atrium, and tyre tracks then lead you up the stairs to the exhibition floor itself. Once there the show is separated into different “tribes” – ‘High Performers’, ‘Thrill Seekers’, ‘Urban Riders’, ‘Cargo Bikers’, ‘Frame Builders’ and a look into the ‘Future of Cycling’. Numerous iconic bikes including Bradley Wiggins’ 2015 Hour Record bike and 2014 World Championship Time Trial bikes, Chris Hoy’s 2012 Olympic Track bike and the earliest Brompton prototype in existence are all handsomely displayed. However what I found more interesting were the personal stories of London’s 155,000 inhabitants who now cycle to work every day including the ultimate urban cyclist Lucy Granville, heavily pregnant and still using her bike to navigate her way across the city! Similarly the ‘Future of Cycling’ provided insights into urban planners global responses to the growing needs of 21st century cyclists as well as showcasing pioneering new bikes; notably Bamboo Bicycle Club’s innovative and sleek matt black 2015 Road Bike created from sustainable bamboo and joined using flax fibre and an eco-epoxy resin. This bike could have equally sat amongst the other British ‘Frame Builders’ as the Club teaches people to build their own bespoke frames rather than mass producing bikes. This is the Design Museums’ final exhibition at their current Shad Thames location, and it has certainly clicked into gear and ended on a high.