The next instalment in our guide to the pavilions of the Shanghai World Expo 2010
This week’s feature has unwittingly taken on a bit of a pink and red theme, showcasing some of the more vivid pavilions that the Shanghai Expo has to offer (aside from the Korea Pavilion, but more of that next week). Treasures in the third instalment of this series include technological advancements at the Hong Kong Pavilion, brightly coloured kites from Mexico, an interactive LED extravaganza from Switzerland and the pitted scarlet sculpture that is the Turkey Pavilion.
Whilst the majority of nations have been taking advantage of the mass exposure afforded at the expo to boast about technological advancements and increase levels of tourism, Mexico appear to have shunned this opportunity, preferring instead to concentrate on highlighting their concern for the recovery of green spaces. Instead of a constructing a physical building as so many have done, first glance at the Mexico Pavilion tells you that SLOT, the architects on this project, have been thinking outside the box. The 4,000 sq m area has been arranged as a series of kites in vibrant shades of pink, red and yellow across the central plaza. The official website of the Mexico Pavilion explains: “Kites are an element of union between Mexican and Chinese cultures. Their name in Náhuatl, papalotl, means butterfly and represents flight.” In harmony with the ‘kite forest’ is a three-layered physical structure, although from the majority of angles this isn’t immediately clear; the basement layer represents the nation’s past, the middle or access level floor represents the present-day whilst the top layer - the great plaza - houses the kite installations and represents the future. The plaza was specifically designed to highlight the need for public green spaces, providing an area where people can socialise, read in peace, have a picnic or simply rest in the shade. As this is based on the ‘future’ layer, the issue is raised that specific spaces have been set aside for leisure and the recovery of green areas, ‘where new generations can recognise themselves within a city in which one can live better’. The lower floors offer an authentic Mexican restaurant, a Tourist Promotion space highlighting Mexico’s most stunning beauty spots and holiday destinations, a business centre and a multi-use hall where temporary exhibitions will be staged on a regular basis.
Whilst continuing the theme of the relationship that one can have with a city, the Hong Kong Pavilion provides a highly interactive visual display on a much more technology-led basis than the Mexico Pavilion. Comprised of a triple-layer, cube-like design, Chan Wai Ching’s plan for the Hong Kong Pavilion is very much an interactive experience. On entering the building, visitors will find themselves confronted by a 360° circular screen that interacts with 14 vertical LED panels. On the other side of these panels are digital silhouettes which, as the visitor approaches, transform into virtual interactive guides who then proceed to teach the visitor about smart ID cards, which have fast become a large part of everyday life in Hong Kong. The interactive features do not end there however. Installed in the striking opaque and glass facade are portals which are linked to one another in the pavilion, as well as portals in Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong Science Museum, encouraging visitors to communicate with strangers and build new relationships. The idea behind the Hong Kong Pavilion’s theme, ‘Potential Unlimited’, is to ‘highlight Hong Kong’s achievements in sustainable urbanisation and illustrate the infinite potential for enhancing city life in a place with limited land resources’. Whilst the interior exhibition is almost overwhelmingly full of state-of-the-art technology and new computerised gems on every turn, one may suggest that the ‘sleek contemporary’ external architecture belies the pavilions impressive interior and that maybe too much emphasis was placed on the exhibition, whilst the external facade was largely overlooked. It is almost as if the exterior was only considered a shell for the true focus point, a box within which Hong Kong can sell its city-life to the masses through the joys of technological advancement.
With a very different approach to the exposure provided by the Shanghai Expo, Buchner Bründler Architects and Element GmbH’s design for the Switzerland Pavilion uses the 4,000 sq m space to draw attention to environmental influences through the sub-theme of ‘rural-urban interaction’. Two cylindrical towers are surrounded by a woven aluminium mesh under which visitors must walk to enter the pavilion. The ‘curtain’ is scattered with individual elements, each containing an energy source, an accumulator and an energy-consumer in the form of an LED cell. As such, environmental influences such as sunlight, wind and flash photography trigger the reactors, which in turn light up in a unique, randomised and indeed thoroughly entertaining pattern. This feature has been installed to educate visitors to the effects that the environmental issues can have on everyday life. Once visitors have passed under this energy-active curtain, they are confronted with a double helix structure, throughout which a chair lift has been installed. Above the pavilion building is a vast planted roof garden, ‘deliberately isolated, physically and acoustically’ from the interior exhibition space to further differentiate between the rural and urban areas. The ‘open, bright and peaceful landscape’ of this gently undulating topography can be viewed via a four minute chair-lift ride, taking the visitor on a journey from urban to rural spaces and back again ‘thus observing and at the same time participating in urban life’. If this automated ride is not to the visitor’s taste, they can complete the same journey the pedestrian way via a 3m wide ramp, at the top of which they will enter the exhibition space. What initially appears to be a single-storey complex then becomes a three-storey atrium with tiered galleries, much like a theatre, which houses a large-scale projection screen presenting the Swiss exhibition. The design for the Switzerland Pavilion has clearly filled the brief, combining rural and urban spaces together in perfect harmony.
‘Cradle of Civilizations’ is the theme for the Turkey Pavilion, with a much greater concentration on national history than the other pavilions featured in this article. Commissioner General of the project, Sencar Ozsoy, noted that the design for the pavilion had been inspired by one of the world’s first known settlements – Catalhoyuk, in the Neolithic period. Turkey’s pride in its history and ancestry is evident within this structure, although the outer architectural design arguably belies this. The exterior comprises of a striking red (signifying ‘good luck’ in Chinese culture) and beige perforated facade, which at first appears too bold and modern to relate directly to the settlements of the Neolithic period. However, the colours of the exterior cladding were selected from ancient wall paintings and within this external shell are many replicas of wall frescos depicting volcanic mountains, hunting scenes and Turkish wildlife such as now extinct wild cattle and stags. This interaction between modern and traditional design has resulted in a pavilion where ‘Neolithic-age fresco is in compliance with today’s architectural trends. However, whilst the aim of the pavilion is to educate visitors on Turkish history and pride, (including many world firsts, such as the first mirror and first man-made dam) here ‘traditional’ methods have been shunned to make way for state of the art technology, including a 360° movie screen showing scenes from the streets of Istanbul. In order to appeal to a wider audience, the pavilion is distributing this information in both English and Chinese. Once this history and culture lesson is over, visitors are confronted with the symbolic figure of a phoenix – a mythical bird which dies in flames and is reborn from the ashes, a lasting reminder of Turkey and the ‘construction of an enduring, secular democracy on the ashes of an empire’.