05 May 2010

Soccer balls, Kirstenbosch and the Chelsea Flower Show

The design for the Kirstenbosch Chelsea Flower Show exhibit was unveiled this morning.
Designers David Davidson and Ray Hudson, designing the exhibit for the 17th time, took up the challenge to explore the theme of biological diversity, in celebration of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. They have produced an unusual and thought provoking exhibit for the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI’s) 2010 Kirstenbosch – SA Chelsea entry entitled ‘Bio[logical] diversity is the variety of life’.

Intrigued by the fact that biodiversity occurs at many different levels, ‘ranging from complete ecosystems to the chemical structures that are the molecular basis of heredity’, this year’s exhibit attempts to illustrate the diversity as well as the genetic variability of the botanical wealth that makes South Africa the third most biologically diverse country in the world.

The exhbit represents several of the different vegetation types comprising the nine biomes of South Africa, grouped in four separate nodes, each with its own cluster of interconnected, hexagonal compartments. In addition, the display will include ‘fine-scale’ examples of genetic variability within a single species as well as diversity among species – and within different genera.

The four clusters will feature plants from the following biomes:
Fynbos (Cape Floral Kingdom – proteas, restios, ericas [heathers]);
Forest/Thicket [Sub-tropical] (cycads, euphorbias, strelitzias);
Desert/Succulent Karoo (succulents) and
Savanna/Grassland (aloes, grasses and bulbs.)

And the design of the exhibit has a fascinating connection to soccer ball. It has used the uniform polyhedron as a design element (based on the familiar diagrams used to illustrate the chemical or structural properties of molecules) to determine the layout of the exhibit, overarched by a geodesic domed roof structure (similar to the domed climatron greenhouse of the Eden Project in Cornwall). This same formula was the original inspiration for the design of the soccer ball.
Most modern footballs are stitched from 32 panels: 12 regular pentagons and 20 regular hexagons. The 32-panel configuration is the spherical polyhedron corresponding to the truncated icosahedron; it is spherical because the faces bulge due to the pressure of the air inside. The first 32-panel ball was marketed by Select in the 1950s in Denmark. This configuration became common throughout Continental Europe in the 1960s, and was publicised worldwide by the Adidas Telstar, the official ball of the 1970 World Cup.

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