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Bodelva china clay pit

Our origins

In the late 1990s a small group gathered to talk about an idea – to create a place like nothing anyone had ever seen before; a place that explored our place in nature, a place that demonstrated what could be done if people who wanted to make a difference got together. 

We bought an exhausted, steep-sided clay pit 60 metres deep, with no soil, 15 metres below the water table, and essentially gave it life. Into it we brought a huge diversity of plants that we use every day but often don’t get to see, planted in soil made from ‘waste’ materials, watered by the rain, in giant conservatories and buildings that drew inspiration from nature. Behind this vision a dedicated team was brought together – made up of people who wanted to change something, who wanted to be able to say, ‘I’m glad I did,’ rather than, ‘I wish I had.’


Co-founder Tim Smit

“ It was ridiculous to imagine it was possible and that hundreds of people trained to say no could be persuaded to say yes. ”

Building Eden ambient video

The Eden timeline

See how we've grown over the years, from pit to paradise.

Aerial shot of visitors inside the Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project

March 2001: Eden opens its doors

The doors of the Eden Project open officially for the first time on 17 March 2001. The Biomes are shrouded in Cornish mist but, as dawn breaks, the air clears and thousands of visitors and staff look out onto what the Times calls the 'eighth wonder of the world'. We welcomed 1.8m visitors in our first year. 

Jarvis Cocker playing guitar on stage at the Eden Project

August 2002: Eden Sessions launches

Pulp stars at the first of Eden's famed one-day music festivals. Since the first show, the Eden Sessions have welcomed the likes of Oasis, Amy Winehouse, Kylie, Elton John, Queens of the Stone Age and Björk. The Daily Telegraph describes the Sessions as 'Magical… half Glastonbury, half Glyndebourne'.

Flowering titan arum at the Eden Project

April 2005: Our first titan arum

The world's biggest, smelliest flower unfurls its deep red petals in our Rainforest Biome, thanks to careful pollination by our gardeners. Armed with a pollen-covered paintbrush tied to a long stick, they stand in for the insects that would normally pollinate the rare Titan arum in its native Indonesia.

Angelina Jolie on stage at the Eden Project

July 2005: Eden hosts Live 8 event

Angelina Jolie addresses a crowd of 30,000 as part of Eden's global Live 8 event, before taking an unexpected stroll around the rainforest. Also gracing the stage for Africa Calling are Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour and WOMAD co-founder Peter Gabriel with Nelson Mandela broadcasting live from a big screen.

Solar panels on roof of Core building at Eden Project

September 2005: The Core opens

Construction finishes on the Core, our sustainable education centre. The copper roof is sourced from a mine with one of the highest environmental and social standards in the world, through our partnership with mining industry giant Rio Tinto. The building is officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen the following year. 

Granite sculpture being craned into the Core building

June 2007: Seed sculpture arrives

Hundreds of schoolchildren and musicians take part in celebrations as the 167-tonne Seed sculpture is lowered into the Core. Inspired by botanical forms, Peter Randall Page's masterpiece was meticulously carved out of a solid block of Cornish granite blasted from a nearby quarry on Bodmin Moor.

People waving at a street party

July 2009: The Big Lunch launches

In streets, parks and gardens across the UK, nearly a million people sit down together and take part in the first ever Big Lunch. Set up by the Eden Project as a way to strengthen communities, the nationwide neighbourhood get-together is now an annual tradition.

Tim Smit and Gayor Coley looking at flooding inside an Eden Project building

November 2010: Eden floods

Like many others in the St Austell area, the Eden team wakes up to severe flooding following heavy rain. Up to one foot deep in some places, the water causes damage to buildings, plant displays and the ice rink – and it's all hands on deck to clean up.

Ben Fogle holding the Olympic Flame at the Eden Project

May 2012: Olympic Flame visits Eden

TV personality Ben Fogle proudly holds the Olympic Flame up high at the start of its 70-day journey across the UK in the lead-up to the London Games – and even takes it up into the forest canopy inside our Biome, safely strapped to a helium balloon.

Family on a rainforest walkway in the Eden Project Rainforest Biome

June 2013: Treetop walkway opens

The first phase of the Rainforest Canopy Walkway in our Rainforest Biome opens with the aim of educating visitors about the importance of rainforests while offering breathtaking views across the Biome.

Horticulture students in the Rainforest Biome

September 2015: The Eden degree launches

We launched these unique courses run by Cornwall College and accredited by Plymouth University to bring a hands-on, practical approach to learning in an inspiring and unforgettable environment. Courses include horticulture and plant science, garden and landscape design and storytelling and interpretation. 

Family walking across wobbly bridge in Eden's Rainforest Biome

March 2017: Rainforest Canopy Walkway extension

The new Weather Maker section of our Rainforest Canopy Walkway opened, helping visitors to understand how rainforests help keep us alive wherever we live. Immersive exhibits include a rope bridge, a cloud bridge and a spot where you can experience tropical rain storms. 

Artist's impression of Eden Project China in Qingdao

July 2017: Eden Project International launches

We launched a new company to drive the establishment of Edens around the world, partnering with like-minded organisations to deliver social and ecological benefits. The Eden Project first opened in a disused china clay quarry in 2001. In the same way, these new projects focus on big global challenges as defined by their localities, such as soil, water, food, biodiversity. 

A view of the infinity blue sculpture it's a dark image with a ray of light coming from the left hand side showing a figure standing and looking up at the large sculpture

May 2018: Invisible Worlds opens

The Core becomes home to Invisible Worlds, a major new permanent exhibition that reveals the world beyond our senses: too big, too small, too fast, too slow, too far away in space and time. Its centrepiece is Infinity Blue, by Studio Swine, a huge ceramic sculpture paying homage to one of the world's smallest but most important organisms: cyanobacteria.

Artist's impression of new waterfall at Eden Project

December 2020: Lockdowns and landslips at Eden

Winter 2020 saw parts of the Eden gardens covered in mud and rubble, after heavy rain resulted in three landslips and a release of large volumes of floodwater onto the face of the old quarry. The site of the landslip is set to become a stunning waterfall (pictured) beside the world-famous Biomes, which helps tell the story of water in a new and compelling way for our visitors.

Workmen operating geothermal drill at Eden

May 2021: Drilling begins for Eden geothermal

A ground-breaking journey 4,500m into the granite beneath the Eden Project begins as we start to drill our first geothermal well – marking a momentous step towards our goal of green energy heating Eden’s Biomes, offices and greenhouses, and contributing to the UK’s 2050 net zero carbon goal.

HM The Queen and the G7 leaders at the Eden Project

June 2021: Eden hosts the G7

In a historic day for us here at the Eden Project we hosted the G7 leaders, Her Majesty The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as a Big Lunch and the Sustainable Markets Initiative, and 10 of the world's top business leaders.

Where next?

photo credit

Image credit: Infinity Blue by Studio Swine, photography Petr Krejci.