Millennium Seed Bank

Status: 2000
Location: Wakehurst Place, West Sussex

Client: The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Value: £14.0m


“This is one of the very best of the millennium projects – architecturally, morally, intellectually, naturally – and one that will be flowering for all our sakes in hundreds of years to come”Jonathan Glancy, The Guardian


Long life storage vaults were designed for this ‘living library’ of over 300 million seeds along with laboratories, a visitor centre, residential and educational science facilities. Set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the Sussex High Weald, the building form and materials were selected to minimise the building’s impact
its surroundings.

The 5,500 m² of flexible new buildings in six barrel-vaulted forms were designed to connect with the landscape and were inspired by the gentle curves of the local barns. The design located the storage vaults underground in the sloping ground to meet planning height restrictions and create the secure, energy efficient and strictly controlled low temperatures (down to minus 40C) and humidity levels required for seed storage.

The original brief for the building was developed and the form of the building ‘turned inside out’ – the scientists were located in open offices around the public exhibition area and winter garden to help visitors be inspired by the importance of the collection. The sustainable strategy used low energy thermal mass design and local construction labour to minimise environmental impact. Water run off was managed to ensure the area’s hydrology is unaffected by the building.


2001 RIBA Award
2001 Highly Commended, Design Partnership Awards
2001 Finalist, Design Sense Sustainability Award
2001 Concrete Society Award
2001 West Sussex Heritage Millennium Award
2001 Finalist, Royal Fine Arts Trust Building of the Year Award
2000 Civic Trust Award


Cost Consultant: Gordon Fanshaw & Partners
Structural Engineers: Michael Barclay Partnership
Main Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease
Photography: Peter Cook and Morley von Sternberg