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25 February 2010

World's Bizarre Structure - Giant Pin Cushion.

Just take a glance at the relatively tiny man in the bottom left-hand corner of the photograph below to gain a measure of the scale of this bizarre structure that looks like a giant pin cushion.

The 'Seed Cathedral', the intended centrepiece of the United Kingdom Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, also comes with an equally enormous bill for the British taxpayer.

Costing £25million to build, the 60ft-high cube-like construction is covered by 60,000 quivering, transparent acrylic rods,received investment from eight Government departments and agencies.

It was organised by UK Trade & Investment, a government agency which promotes British companies abroad.

It's purpose is to present a dynamic view of Britain to the outside world and counter persistent Chinese perceptions of a Victorian-era UK.

UKTI chief executive officer Sir Andrew Cahn said: 'The Chinese view of Britain is a rather old-fashioned one; it’s all to do with Britain as being a heritage country, a traditional economy - there’s an awful lot of cobblestones and fog.

'It hopes that updating Chinese preconceptions will attract foreign investors and students to Britain, as well as encourage exports between the two countries.

'We think of Britain as a cutting-edge, forward-looking country.'

So, as Britain faces a national debt of nearly £800billion, the organisers' fingers must be hoping it wows wealthy visitors and doesn't leave us a laughing stock as well as further out of pocket.

The Foreign Office, which oversees UKTI, would not disclose at how much taxpayers' cash had been used to build the Seed Cathedral.

A spokesman for the department told Mail Online tonight that the full details could not be obtained until tomorrow morning.

He said that five corporate sponsors had also invested in the Shanghai project and when asked if the majority of the cash was public money, the spokesman would only say a 'large chunk of it was'

The building was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, who is best known for The B of the Bang sculpture in Manchester, and it was inspired by the UK’s public parks and gardens to meet the Expo’s brief of 'Better City, Better Life'.

He also created the East Beach Cafe in Littlehampton, the Rolling Bridge in London and the Blue Carpet in Newcastle.

He is also a senior fellow and external examiner at the Royal College of Art and a fellow of the Royal Academy.

The World Expo starts later this year and lasts six months.

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