10th birthday timeline

From clay pit to world-famous visitor attraction and educational charity – see how the Eden Project unfolds throughout its first decade.

  • January 1995
    Not just another hole in the ground

    Aerial view of Bodelva clay pit before Eden was built there

    In 1995 this hole in the ground is a working china clay pit that is nearing the end of its economic life. And the Eden Project is just a twinkle in Tim Smit's eye. Having restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan, he's now looking for an epic setting to showcase the world's most important plants and realises he is going to need a very, very large space…

  • October 1996
    Early sketches of Eden vision

    Early sketches of Eden's Biomes on napkins

    The very first designs of the Eden Project Biomes are drawn on a napkin over a drink in a pub. Architect firm Grimshaw gets behind the project and takes its concept of Waterloo International as a starting point. Over time the design evolves into giant bubbles, because bubbles can settle on any shaped surface. Even irregular clay pits.

  • October 1998
    World record set at Eden

    Biome under construction surrounded by flood water

    It rains everyday during the first few months of construction, sending 43 million litres of water into the pit. We devise a special drainage system for the pit, which sits 15 metres below the water table. The 230 miles of scaffolding used to build the Biomes earn Eden an entry into the Guinness Book of Records. Watch a timelapse video of our build

    Watch a timelapse video of our build
  • March 2000
    The Project is at last fully funded

    Eden Managing Director, Gaynor Coley, signing Millennium Commission funding document

    Eden celebrates as years of tireless fundraising by a small team have finally paid off. Vital grants, loans and sponsorship arrangements mean we now have the 50% match funding needed to secure the generous Millennium Commission grant promised back in 1997. Here, Finance Director Gay Coley, now MD, signs contracts with NatWest's Dennis Spencer.

  • May 2000
    Visitors come to the Big Build

    School children wearing hard hats

    As one of the UK's Landmark Millennium Projects, Eden invites the public to take a glimpse behind the scenes. Wearing hard hats and high-vis jackets, visitors get to see the build in progress. The Biomes start to take shape as the 'sky monkeys', a team of abseilers, install the giant hexagonal pillows.

  • September 2000
    First plants arrive

    Tall tree wrapped in plastic carried by horticulturists during early stage of planting at Eden

    The first of many trees are planted in a sparse-looking Rainforest Biome. Twice as high as Big Ben, this space will eventually become home to over 1,000 different rainforest plant species. Many plants are grown from seed in our nursery; others come from botanic gardens, research stations and supporters.

    See photos of the Rainforest Biome today
  • March 2001
    Eden opens its doors

    Pond with lily pads in Rainforest Biome

    The doors of the Eden Project open officially for the first time on 17 March. 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'. By June, over a million people have visited.

  • August 2002
    Eden Sessions launches

    Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of Pulp, on stage at Eden

    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, Paolo Nutini and Muse.

    The Daily Telegraph describes the Sessions as 'Magical… half Glastonbury, half Glyndebourne'.

    Watch Pulp singing Common People at Eden
  • January 2004
    Global school gardening network launches

    School children and teacher in India looking at plants

    Eden kicks off an international programme helping schoolchildren create gardens where they can explore food, environment and citizenship. By 2011, thousands of children across four continents have joined in. Over the next decade, Eden is to develop many more projects like the Gardens for Life network. Read more about Eden's projects

    Read more about Eden's projects
  • November 2004
    Eden embraces winter

    People holding illuminated paper lanterns at night outside Eden's Biomes

    Cornwall's first undercover ice rink is opened at Eden, providing a winter experience for visitors, year-round employment for staff and business for local suppliers. Our annual Time of Gifts winter festival is established as a season to give thanks and support each other in the depths of winter, with seasonal events, an ice rink, lantern processions and community celebrations. Around 100,000 people now come to skate each year.

  • April 2005
    World's smelliest flower blossoms

    Man with titan arum flower

    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.

    Watch a timelapse video of the 'corpse flower'
  • June 2005
    Giant robot installed

    WEEE Man sculpture made of electrical waste products

    A huge robotic sculpture made of scrap electrical and electronic equipment arrives at Eden. Weighing 3.3 tonnes and standing seven meters tall, the WEEE Man sculpture shows the average amount of electronic products everyone throws away in a lifetime.

    Learn more about the WEEE Man
  • July 2005
    Eden hosts Live 8 event

    Angelina Jolie on the Eden stage with a microphone

    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.

  • September 2005
    Cutting-edge education centre opens

    Construction workers installing copper plates on roof of Eden's Core building

    Construction finishes on the Core, our sustainable education centre. The bright copper roof is specially sourced from a mine with one of the highest environmental and social standards in the world. It's just one of the unusual projects we've done through our partnership with mining industry giant Rio Tinto. Find out more about our responsible mining projects

    Find out more about our responsible mining projects
  • June 2006
    The Queen visits Eden

    The Queen at the Eden Project

    The Queen visits Eden to open the Core. The sun shines, the flags wave and Her Majesty gives us a seal of approval: 'I am confident that the Eden Project will continue to encourage a better understanding of the planet on which we live, to offer a vision of hope for the future, and to inspire us all to work to make this world a better place for everyone.'

  • April 2007
    World's first eco-motor show

    Green cars on show at Eden Project

    Visitors get close up to the latest, green cars at Eden as we host the first Sexy Green Car Show.

    The 'sexy' motors – some of which haven't yet hit the showrooms – feature a range of innovative materials, fuels and designs including recycled carbon fibre bodies, plant-based fuels and electric chargers.

    Find out about other events in our climate change programme
  • June 2007
    Huge Seed sculpture arrives

    Seed granite sculpture lifted by crane

    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.

    Watch the Seed arriving
  • July 2008
    10 millionth visitor

    Tim Smit with the 10 millionth visitor to Eden on a platform with the Biomes behind.

    Tim Smit takes Eden's 10th millionth visitors by surprise at the ticketing hall. Jonathan and Sarah Shaw, a couple from Oxfordshire, are presented with lifetime memberships to Eden and a complimentary meal for two. We only expected 750,000 visitors a year, but by our 10th birthday we had welcomed almost 13 million since fully opening.

  • May 2009
    Chelsea Flower Show success

    Man in flat cap and high-vis vest with arm around scarecrow

    A garden created by hundreds of homeless people and prison inmates, part of a collaboration with Eden, wins silver at the Chelsea Flower Show.

    A second stunning display, the largest ever in the history of the event, scoops another silver the following year. It's just one example of the work we do to boost the skills and confidence of socially excluded people through activities like horticulture and football.

    Find out more about the show gardens
  • July 2009
    The Big Lunch launches

    People at Big Lunch on street with red London bus in background

    In streets, parks and gardens across the UK, nearly a million people sit down together 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.

    Watch the video of the first ever Big Lunch
  • September 2009
    Eden opens as wedding venue

    Eden opens its doors as a wedding venue, giving couples the chance to wed amid the lush foliage of the rainforest or in the fragrant surroundings of the Med.

    Unusual ideas for the big day include using our ribbon-decked land train, getting married in the Malaysian Hut inside the Rainforest Biome and having photos taken by the waterfall.

    Check out our magical venue
  • July 2010
    Giant balloon installed in rainforest

    Gardener in hot air balloon floating in Eden's Rainforest Biome

    A large helium balloon is permanently installed, allowing gardeners to fly around the towering canopy of the Rainforest Biome. Strapped into the sling of the balloon and tethered by a colleague, gardeners now prune fast-growing trees such as balsa and kapok, which have reached over 50m. Visitors can also take the once-in-a-lifetime trip in the Rainforest Balloon.

  • August 2010
    David Attenborough films in the Biome

    David Attenborough looking at a brown lizard sitting on his finger

    Sir David Attenborough and a gecko take part in a staring match as the couple compete for the camera during the filming of wildlife documentary Flying Monsters 3D.

    The film mixes computer-generated images of prehistoric flying vertebrates with real-life footage of modern flying lizards.

  • August 2010
    Bear Grylls abseils from Rainforest Lookout

    Bear Grylls and Tim Smith with glasses of champagne on Rainforest Lookout

    Adventurer Bear Grylls tests out Eden's latest thrill. The new aerial platform suspended from the top of the Biome is higher than the Tower of London. Visitors with a head for heights get a unique bird's eye view of the biggest greenhouse in the world and can look down on the lush tropical canopy.

    Watch Bear's abseil
  • October 2010
    World record set at Eden Marathon

    Marathon winner crossing the finishing line

    At the second Eden Marathon 23-year-old Adam Holland from Devon becomes the youngest person ever to run 100 marathons.

    Thousands of runners from all over Britain take part in the Eden Marathon, which follows a spectacular route through the surrounding China Clay Country.

    Watch Adam break the world record
  • November 2010
    Eden affected by flood

    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.

    See footage of the floods
  • December 2010
    Green light for geothermal plant

    Matt Hastings, Eden's Energy Manager

    We receive planning permission to build a geothermal power plant at Eden in collaboration with EGS Energy. Taking renewable energy from deep inside the Cornish granite, it will heat our Biomes and feed electricity into the national grid.

    It's part of our target to slash Eden's carbon emissions by 80% by 2020, a target that surpasses the government's.

    See how we're reducing our footprint
  • January 2011
    Tim Smit is knighted

    Tim Smit, Eden's Chief Executive

    Tim Smit receives news that he is to be appointed an honorary Knight in recognition of his services to public engagement with science.

    The Dutch-born Co-founder and CEO of Eden says: 'In the true spirit of "going Dutch" I would like to share the honour with all the fabulous friends and colleagues who have helped make the adventures of the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project a reality.'

  • February 2011
    First Eden Cafe opens

    Smiling woman reading book next to book shelves

    The doors open to Eden's low-carbon, sustainably built cafe in the local Cornish town of St Austell.

    Eden's first permanent offsite venue showcases the best of local food, music and art as well as community projects and green living. Quirky features include a book swap and a fresh produce exchange.

    Check out our cafe
  • August 2011
    Biomes become big top

    Circus performer hanging upside down from rope in Mediterranean Biome

    A specially created show of aerial acrobatics, live music, dance and drama is commissioned to mark Eden's 10th anniversary celebrations.

    Over the summer, the award-winning performers, NoFit State Circus, are to perform the 'Labyrinth' show right across the Eden site, moving in and out of the audience, doing daring displays above our heads, and then taking it to an incredible finale inside Eden's very own 'big top'.

    Get a taste of the show
Eden is 10 logo with birthday candle in Biome