The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

I read about the Global Seed Vault last year in Wired, but it wasn’t until recently that I saw a real photo of the place and how amazing it is! To make a long story short, the Seed Vault is a giant store house with over 10,000 seeds and plant material. The reason for this bio-bank is to “provide a safety net against accidental loss o diversity in traditional genebanks”. Basically it’s a giant vault of plant life, so that plants that could be important to us in the future don’t die out or go extinct.

The Seed Vault is located on a Norewgian island called Spitsbergen, which is only 700 miles from the North Pole. The reason they built the vault in such a barren frosty location is three-fold. The first reason is that it has a relatively low amount of tectonic activity, so no earthquakes, which a lot of other genebanks could possibly be damaged by. The second is that the average temperature of the sandstone mountain that the vault was built in is 30º F. The seeds are cooled down to a temperature of -0 to -20º F, so even if the power went out, the seeds would be okay for at least weeks. The final reason is that the location is 430 feet above sea level, so even if global warming occurs, and the oceans begin to rise, the seeds will be safe.

But no matter how important and immense this project is, how effing cool is the building itself?! Could you imagine randomly coming across it in the middle of this island and thinking, “There are modern design loving aliens hanging out around here?!” I think it’s totally beautiful, and I love how narrow and simple it looks. I’m sure it’s a much prettier site than just some random concrete bunker.

Check out some cross-sections of the building under the cut.


March 3, 2008