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Shanghai World Expo 2010 
Tuesday 01 Jun 2010
 
Pavilion prowess 
 
Korea - photography © Yong-Kwan Kim 
 
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Editorial

The next instalment in our guide to the pavilions of the Shanghai World Expo 2010 

Korea

As promised, this week’s round up kicks off with the magnificent Korea Pavilion – a collaboration between Mass Studies Architects and Arup engineering. The rich, vibrant and all around cheery structure has been hugely popular with expo visitors due to its vivid colour pallet and interior-exterior design. The 6,000 sq m site boasts a structure that appears classically white from 'outside' and multi-tonal from 'inside', composed of 40,000 aluminium panels designed or selected by Korean artist Ik-joong Kang. It is these individually hand-picked tiles that encapsulate the Korea Pavilion’s sub-theme, as Arup explain: “the pavilion is an amalgamation of ‘sign’ and ‘space’ where signs become spaces and spaces become signs. The Korean alphabet Han-geul constitutes the element of ‘sign’, and their beautiful arrangement constitutes the ‘space’”. Unlike many pavilions at the Shanghai Expo, the exhibition space within the Korea pavilion is not restricted to one specific area. Instead, the building plays on inside-outside spaces, creating a continuous open-air passage throughout the 6,000 sq m site. As such, the signs on the tiles that decorate the walls of the structure become an exhibition space in their own right, ‘so that the visitors can experience their geometry through horizontal, vertical and diagonal movements’. The tiles used in the construction are split into two categories – Han-geul Pixels (white panels with a relief of letters in four different sizes which cover many of the ‘exterior’ surfaces) and Art Pixels (45cm x 45cm aluminium panels created by Korean artist Ik-joong Kang). It is the Art Pixels that create the jewel-bright vision that draws in visitors like moths to a flame. Each panel is individually signed by the artist and will be sold at the end of the expo with all proceeds going to international charity organisations. Whilst the ornately decorative walls act as an exhibition space of their own, there is also a designated exhibition area on the second floor which is kept in complete darkness to increase the intensity of the experience. Arup explain: “We take advantage of the space by opening it up as an open flat plane, to be able to handle an extremely heavy load of visitor traffic.” On the lower level, beneath a sky of brilliantly coloured panels lies a 3D scale map ‘that is a convergence of nature and urbanism reflecting the true nature of Seoul’, throughout which runs a 79m artificial replica of the Han River.

Latvia

Mailitis’ design for the Latvia Pavilion may be simple but it is most certainly effective. The gently curving steel structure holds in its centre a powerful wind tunnel, within which visitors to the pavilion can experience the joy of ‘flying’. Mailitis explain that ‘Through the latest technological advancements, people can now fly in both a figurative and literal sense’, inspiring them to design a 1,000 sq m pavilion that would exhibit Latvia’s cultural achievements, environmental protection methods and technological advancements whilst incorporating this intriguing anti-gravitational element. Similar to the Korea Pavilion, the cylindrical facade of the Latvia Pavilion is composed of 100,000 transparent 15cm x 15cm plastic panels. Whilst the Korea Pavilion’s tiles are fully static, Mailitis’ design allows the plates to sway and sparkle in the natural elements, generating a dynamic, kinetic effect. This feature is intended to symbolise nature in its multiple forms – forest, sea, land and sky. A curled staircase leads to the glass wind tunnel, where visitors are able to ‘fly’. However, in order to do so they must first win an interactive quiz on Latvian culture using touch screens housed elsewhere in the structure. Once within the wind tunnel, their experiences are documented for distribution across the world. Aside from the interactive visitor experience, the Latvia Pavilion also offers a feature exhibition for entertainment value. As evening falls, three wind turbines installed on the roof of the pavilion elevate a professional team of ‘flying’ acrobats 20m into the air to complete a compelling thematic performance accompanied by a spectacular light show.

Hungary

In many ways, the Támas Lévai’s design for the Hungary Pavilion visually resembles Thomas Heathwick’s idea for the UK Pavilion – The Seed Cathedral. The exterior is formed of many long thin fibres through which natural light filters, illuminating the pavilion’s interior. Unlike the UK Pavilion however, the tubes of the Lévai’s design are composed of wood, not fibre optics and are laid vertically across the facade to create a curtain effect, rather than extending from all angles like Heatherwick’s composition. The basis for the Hungary Pavilion is the invention of the Gömböc – a recent scientific discovery hitting the papers across the world. Pronounced ‘goemboets’, the discovery is the first known homogenous object with just one stable and one unstable equilibrium point. The Gömböc has been described as ‘a symbol of dual harmony and balance’ and it is upon this basis that Lévai has anchored his design, playing on the features of both mathematics and architecture, using elements of homogeneity, abstraction, dynamics and playfulness to create a three dimensional matrix of vertically moving wooden sound tubes. Wood is the main building material used in this structure and works in correlation with the non-materials deliberately employed within the interior – empty space, light and sound. Natural light has been harnessed by installing reflective flooring in order to illuminate the structure from beneath, whilst the wooden tubes that make up the facade and areas of the interior are ‘sound-boxes’, which are designed to play as musical instruments as illustrated in the following short film.

France

Hand-picked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Jacques Ferrier Architects’ design for the France Pavilion offers a multi-platform French experience. In ‘The Sensual City’, visitors will be able to see, touch, smell, hear and feel what it is like to wander through a French urban environment. Constructed using a new type of concrete material which has been moulded into a trellis-like structure, from the outside the pavilion resembles a slightly underwhelming version of the recently opened Pompidou-Metz. However, the real gems of the France Pavilion lie inside, as the interior opens out to reveal a secret inner garden where visitors can experience the elegance, peacefulness and grace that is so regularly attributed to French culture. Birdsong will serenade the visitors as the fragrance of fresh flowers waft over them and the ultimate in French cuisine is offered under the glorious Shanghai sunshine. The entire building focuses on this interior-garden experience, although keen not to lose out to the pavilions of other technologically advanced nations, video projections have been installed to play classic French films to those passing by. Sarkozy has expressed the need for the pavilion to shine a light on France’s contribution to sustainable urban development, employing high levels of environmental protection technology and incorporating the most advanced building materials available. All this comes at a cost however, and the country has allegedly invested a record €50m in the project. Xu Bo, Director of the International Participation Department of the Bureau of World Expo Coordination said: “As far as I know, it is the highest [budget] among all participants.” Surrounded by a moat and intersected by multiple streams, pools and fountains, the France Pavilion appears to be floating on water, almost saving the exterior from its rather harsh and surprisingly inelegant external appearance.

Sian Disson
Editorial Assistant

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