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The story of the Seed sculpture

Hear how it was carved from Cornish granite.

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Peter Randall-Page
Seed, 2007
Cornish Granite

In 2003 artist Peter Randall-Page was commissioned to collaborate with Jolyon Brewis of Grimshaw Architects on the design of a new education building for the Eden. The result is a building whose roof structure is based on the geometric principles underlying plant growth. At the centre of the building is a specially designed chamber housing ‘Seed’, Randall-Page’s enormous granite sculpture based on the same spiral phyllotaxis pattern as the structure itself. This pattern relates to the Fibonacci sequence and the golden proportion and can be seen in pinecones and sunflower heads amongst many other botanical examples. 

This monumental granite sculpture is constructed from a single piece of Cornish Granite, originally weighing over 167 tonnes, and took almost four years to complete. Its surface is carved with nearly 2,000 ‘nodes’. The spiral pattern on which the sculpture is based bears no relation to a horizontal and vertical grid, which made the task particularly complex, involving as it did a balance between geometric accuracy and organic freedom.

In the manner of Rothko, who stipulated the dimensions and light conditions of the rooms in which his work should be seen, the chamber and artwork were conceived as one. Peter wanted to separate this inner sanctum from the bustle outside to give the chamber a meditative and contemplative quality. ‘Seed’ is lit by the natural daylight filtering down through the central aperture. The changing weather and seasons play across the sculpture’s undulating, tactile surface.

About the artist

Artist Peter Randall-Page was born in the UK in 1954 and studied sculpture at Bath Academy of Art from 1973–1977. During the past 40 years he has gained an international reputation through his sculpture, drawings and prints. He has undertaken numerous large-scale commissions and exhibited widely. His work is held in public and private collections throughout the world including Japan, South Korea, Australia, USA, Turkey, Eire, Germany and the Netherlands. His public sculptures can be found in many locations throughout the UK including London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge and his work is in the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery and the British Museum amongst others.

Commissions include Give and Take in Newcastle, which won the 2006 Marsh Award for Public Sculpture; Mind’s Eye, a large ceramic wall mounted piece for the Department of Psychology at Cardiff University (2006); a commemorative sculpture for a Mohegan Chief at Southwark Cathedral (2006); Harmonic Solids for the University of Music, Karlsruhe (2013); Source at Southmead Hospital Bristol (2013); Theme and Variation, commissioned by the University of Birmingham for the façade of the Bramhall Music Building (2014); and façades at the new Laboratory building at Dulwich College façades at the new Laboratory building at Dulwich College, designed in collaboration with Grimshaw architects (2016). A major new work, The One and The Many, at Fitzroy Place, London, was launched in June 2016. Touchstone, a new commission for Transport for London at Oval Triangle, was installed in June 2018.

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Plymouth in 1999, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from York St John University in 2009, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Exeter University in 2010, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Bath Spa University in 2013. In 2015 Peter was elected as a Royal Academician in the category of sculpture.

His practice has always been informed and inspired by the study of natural phenomena and its subjective impact on our emotions. In recent years his work has become increasingly concerned with the underlying principles determining growth and the forms it produces. In his words, ‘geometry is the theme on which nature plays her infinite variations and can be seen as a kind of pattern book on which the most complex and sophisticated structures are based.’