The Eden Project and Southbank Mosaics

We come from the Garden of Eden: that is a widely accepted narrative about our origins. I’ve met Jane Knight, Howard Jones and Nikki Kelly over the past few months, humble and thoughtful leaders from the Eden Project, and I hope that they are our future.

Our natural world is breathtakingly beautiful. Then for us the most interesting sight, touch and sound is another human being. Isn’t this one reason why we are drawn to cities, to feed our fascination for and attraction to others? The cities of the future will reflect this desire with interpretations of beauty that surpass those exquisite districts of Florence, Istanbul and Paris. Surpass the Alhambra, built 600 and more years ago, because we have their example and more capacity.

Somehow in the grinding logic of endless economic growth, we have lost sight of the importance of quality: standards, meaning and beauty in our lives.

Do we need more and more petrol, more acres of concrete, increasing numbers of cars – or does that lead to gridlock on main street? And when you look out of your jammed car over the pavement, blighted by roadworks, and see the brick wall ahead, do you ever wonder if this is the best place to be? The sum of our achievement?

There are many other ways, (a bit more walking for a start) and the Eden Project looks to nature, lifts up people at the margins and seeks a sustainable future. One where balance and quality are intrinsic, rather than endless generation of waste.

We’ve been working with the Eden Project at the Southbank Centre, bringing with us a creative economy, that draws on our energy and imagination. Have you seen the Roof Garden on Queen Elizabeth Hall? – go there and have a coffee and look over mother Thames, with her “bars of gold”. Check out the paving stones we’ve given as well. Two on the roof garden leaning against the cafe and ten mosaic portraits at ground level, outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

How can we make our voluntary work sustainable? How can we achieve investment in our efforts to include people and improve the quality of Londoner’s lives?

At Southbank Mosaics we’ve written a book, called Mosaic Artisans, which will be published shortly. From this we will offer a franchise to developers or local authorities – if they think their block, neighbourhood or town has a history worth recording and a future worth investing in. We will bring character and detail to our public realm, potentially creating 20,000 purposeful jobs – to make our town beautiful, around the country. It’s a small step towards a new creative and sustainable economy.

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