Eden Project named best British building of the past 20 years

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The Independent Online

The world's largest greenhouse was being feted yet again yesterday as the Eden Project was named the best British building of the past 20 years.

The project which has been a phenomenal success and become one of the country's best loved attractions in just five years won "best of the best" prize in the British Construction Industry's (BCI) 20th anniversary awards while the Channel Tunnel was named the top civil engineering project.

Yesterday Eden's chief executive, Tim Smit, said: "We are so proud and humbled to have won this award, especially in the light of the fabulous projects that Britain has spawned in a modern renaissance over the past two decades.

"For us it has been a privilege to have been offered the opportunity to follow our dreams and build 'Eden' and to watch the engineers, architects and landscape architects weave their genius."

Home of the famous giant Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes and the Core education centre, it has attracted more than eight million visitors and is said to have generated £800m for the regional economy since opening in 2001. Two years ago it was proclaimed Britain's favourite modern building in a poll released by Construction Skills. The project's next stage is the Edge, which will be the last building on the site in the former china clay pit near St Austell, Cornwall.

The BCI awards judges said a range of factors, not just design, featured in their choices. These included client satisfaction, safety, innovation, sustainability and usability. Eden won because of its "influence, legacy and public benefit".

Eden's managing director, Gaynor Coley, said: "It would be remiss of us not to send out a message of heartfelt thanks to the Lottery, and especially the Millennium Commission who had faith in Eden and dared to take a chance when it would have been easier to say no."

Other projects praised in the BCI awards include a diverse collection of buildings and civil engineering projects such as the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre; Camp Bastion Military Base in Afghanistan; the RNLI Padstow Lifeboat Station; Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London; Lower Witham Flood Defence Scheme in Lincolnshire; Paradise Park Children's Centre in North London; the Cass Sculpture Foundation Centre in Sussex; Tilford Bridges in Surrey; the National Cold War Exhibition, RAF Museum in Shropshire; The Roundhouse in London; Bridge Arts Centre in Glasgow; Innovative Green Office in Leeds and the British designed Hearst Tower in New York.

... and the best of the rest

* Dalby Forest Visitor Centre won The Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award. The judges said it was a great achievement on such a tight budget. They said: "Inspirational use of recycled waste plastic materials – yoghurt pots, toothbrushes and even mobile phones – were used to create colourful loo doors and decorative panels. A rich combination of locally-harvested timber enhanced the quality, sustainability and speed of construction."

Commissioned by the Forestry Commission and designed by White Design.

* Camp Bastion Military Base in Helmand, Afghanistan, won the Judges' Special Award. They said: "Barracks for more than 2,350, a 50 bed hospital, maintenance facilities, a helicopter base and 1,000 metre runway. All completed in four months, ahead of schedule and within budget – a staggering achievement."

Commissioned and designed by Royal Engineers.

* Emirates Stadium in North London won the Major Project Award. The judges praised Arsenal's new 60,000-seater stadium, which was completed within budget and ready for the 2006 Premiership kick off. They said: "Probably the best club stadium in Europe delivered on time despite £35m of additional works. The stadium is of uncompromising quality which works both on a macro and micro scale."

Commissioned by Arsenal Football Club and designed by HOK Sport Architecture.

* The Roundhouse in North London won the Conservation Award. Judges praised its "reinvention of the theatre" to provide a modern concert venue while preserving the best of its heritage. They said: "Who could possibly guess that the building has a new roof and a new wing while the four million bricks of the inner walls and the cast iron frame remain intact."

Commissioned by The Roundhouse Trust and designed by John McAslan & Partners.