Q&A | David Harland, Eden Project International

The man behind the eagerly anticipated Eden Project North in Morecambe talks about his lockdown chickens, working while walking along Cornish country lanes, and his mantras to live by.

Why did you choose a career in property?

I didn’t really! I am just lucky to be working on a series of place-based projects across the world that aim to change our relationship with the planet and the lives of those people who come into contact with those places.

Who was your mentor and what was the best piece of advice they gave you?

I have had two – my first proper boss, Matthew, who told me “that integrity is all you have got really” and Sir Tim Smit, Eden Project founder, who is full of amazing advice – my particular favourite is about “daring to dream and organising to deliver”.

What building or project do you wish you’d delivered?

I wish I’d managed to get around to or had the skill to convert the barn attached to my farmhouse during lockdown!

What key lesson have you learned from 2020 and the pandemic?

That the birds still sing – remember hearing them during lockdown?! – and that we can really come out of this pandemic stronger if we demand more collectively and work together – us humans are pretty resilient!

What was your lockdown hobby? Did you get ‘Covid-fit’ or gain the ‘Covid stone’?

Acquired nine chickens and built a treehouse for the kids.  Covid-fit – phone calls walking around the Cornish lanes did it.

Eden Project North 1

Eden Project North is predicted to cost £125m

Spend or save? What’s your most extravagant purchase, and what are you saving up for?

Spend, and it’s holidays all the way. Taking the children to experience different cultures is a must as far as we are concerned.

Are you a rebel or a conformist?

Rebellious conformist.

What keeps you awake at night?

At the moment the cold, as the boiler is broken – professionally not that much.

What’s your proudest achievement?

That the treehouse is still up.

What’s your biggest regret?

That I didn’t know in my twenties what I now know!

What’s your top wish for 2021?

To ensure that we can build Eden Project North as quickly as the people of the North West deserve, ie very quickly.

What was the best book you read this year?

Buckminster Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

If you hadn’t gone into property, what would you have done?

I’d be in healthcare still.

Of your own projects next year, which are you most excited about?

Without question Eden Project North. Wherever I go in the world, people talk to me about it and Morecambe – did everybody go there as child?

What trend do you believe will have the most profound impact on the placemaking industry in 2021?

The realisation that town centres need a new role and the opportunity that this gives us for exciting, vibrant, new public realm.

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