The Urbanian Pavilion at World Expo Shanghai

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The Urbanian Pavilion at World Expo Shanghai

Urbanian Pavilion / Shanghai, China / 2010 / temporary In Pursuit of Happiness In 2007 Kossmann.dejong won an international competition to design one of the five Chinese theme pavilions for the World Expo in Shanghai. ‘The City’ was the main theme of the whole Expo, with the subtitle ‘Better City, Better Life’. The task was to make an exhibition about ‘urban population’ or rather, the quality of life in the city. The total surface area of the pavilion was 15,000 m² with an indoor height of more than 20 metres. After the Chinese national pavilion, it was the largest exhibition at the Expo. Some 40,000 primarily Chinese visitors were expected to come every day. The commission involved the development of the concept, the definitive design, and the supervision of that design and its content during development and construction. The important design decisions were how to play this colossal space and how to approach this content-rich topic in an attractive and thought-provoking manner. The main idea for the narrative followed and compared six existing families in their search for happiness. The families came from six different cities on six different continents. The goal was to make a ‘people’ pavilion. Real stories of real people would strongly reinforce the visitor's identification. The idea was that this tactic could reach the broadest Chinese audience. Combining family (micro-)stories with macro-statistics could relate a much bigger narrative without using as many words. Another goal was to show that the possibilities and diversity of choice offered by cities is what makes them so attractive. The Urbanian pavilion had to illustrate the most important themes that determined the quality of city life: a healthy and safe living and home environment, enough satisfying work, good educational possibilities, and a rich social network. Visitors ascended to a height of 10 metres up an escalator, from where the journey began along a ramp, through a theatrically designed, monumental city of diversity. During their ‘city walk’, visitors passed through five different sub-pavilions that mirrored the different aspects of life in the big city for the six aforementioned families. These sub-themes " HOME, WORK, CONNECTED, LEARN, HEALTH " differed completely in their design through the use of synchronized multi-screen projections, light and sound. To speak most effectively to the visitor's imagination, there was no literal city; rather, everything was designed with ‘as found’ objects, that is to say, everyday materials found everywhere that are cheap and easy to work with. Plastic crates created a large ‘Residential Area’ of skyscrapers, thousands of milk cartons were built into an organized suburb, empty paint cans rose into the imposing wall of a factory, and a pile-up of office furniture formed an office colossus. Cardboard removal boxes suggested a skyline. The sub-pavilions themselves created different parts of a city. During the 45-minute stay in the exhibition, the visitor could always experience the city in a different manner and take in the different views, perspectives and insights offered. The city showed itself totally differently in its various manifestations through the use of changing light and sound. The sub-pavilions: Home A cube-shaped space of 30 x 30 metres made of more than 120 3D show-boxes of various living rooms from the six chosen cities. Mirrors on the ceiling and the floor of the pavilion generated endless reflections. The life of the six families was compared in images and with statistics on the largest boxes. LEDs in and behind the boxes were timed to work with the film and sound. Work This theme revolved around dynamics, and took the form of a barrel-shaped space with a 30-metre diameter. There was a rotating machine in the middle containing six large translucent screens with 22 spinning TFT screens around them. The six working families were compared on the large translucent screens while the TFT screens showed all kinds of details. Engineers from the Chinese army developed the machine's technology. Connected Eight beamers projected a film on the ceiling of this dome-shaped pavilion. The idea was to highlight the importance of social networks, transport systems and meeting places. At a height of three metres, there was a delicate network of horizontally strung wires that created a more spacious experience and gave visitors a focal point to prevent dizziness Learn 15-metre high, crooked bookcases created this space. A cloudy sky represented ‘the sky is the limit’ and the orange ladders were the various steps that one could take to get there. Projections on chalkboards compared education in the different cities. Large projections on the shelves showed that knowledge does not only come from books. Film, light and sound were synchronized to form the dynamic in this space. The walls of the Learn pavilion were covered with thousands of drawer fronts from file cabinets. Open drawers were fitted with adjustable LEDs. One of the façades of the Learn pavilion was faced with picture frames and white canvases to signify a museum of modern art. Health A room tiled in white created an atmosphere that could be found in a hospital, a swimming pool or a sauna. A circular, semi-translucent curtain swaying slowly in the breeze from the surrounding rotating fans dominated the space. On it were projected images of the families. Water flowed along the tiled walls and droplets from the leafy canopy in the centre of the pavilion fell straight downwards. The space smelled of Eucalyptus. A part of the Health pavilion was covered with mirrors to illustrate the city of offices and create an expanded spatial effect.

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