Far to the north, 1300 km beyond the Arctic Circle, we can find the archipelago of Svalbard (Spitzbergen), which is most often associated with glaciers, icebergs and polar bears. However, deep inside the rocks of this unfertile land, is where the Global Seed Bank of Svalbard (Norway), a repository of plant seeds from all over the world, was built. Tens of thousands of seed samples are stored here, and there is capacity for the seeds of all global plant life. Situated 130 m inside the rocks and 130 m above sea level, the Seed Bank is safe from threats of climate change or natural disasters. The project is built and maintained by the Norwegian State, and cooperates with among others Global Crop Diversity Trust and the UN commission for genetic resources concerning professional advice.
The Global Seed Bank of Svalbard opened in 2008, and although it has a size of 1000 m2, is almost completely underground. The only visible structure is the concrete portal, which stands out as a statement of potential life in the barren landscape. Designed by the architect Peter W. Söderman in Barlindhaug Consult AS, the striking feature of the portal is the art work “Perpetual Repercussion” by Dyveke Sanne. Using steel and glass prisms, the artwork’s expression changes according to the rhythms of daylight, and artificial lighting in the dark hours, which in winter in practically round the clock.
The importance of such a global “memory” has been demonstrated lately, when several national seed banks have been damaged by natural disasters, and also by warfare. The Syrian seed bank is a case in point, situated in the city of Aleppo, it is feared that parts or all of their stored seeds are destroyed. But thankfully, almost in the land of Santa Claus, there is a copy.
Text by Henning Nielsen, Guide A, Oslo, Photo by Jaro Hollan
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