Shanghai Expo a mind-blowing experience

Shanghai Expo a mind-blowing experience

Like a huge hairy pod of light covered in a soft wrapper, the UK pavilion was for architect Andrew Patterson a definite highlight of the Shanghai World Trade Show. Having just returned from an extensive tour of significant buildings around the world, Andrew says the UK pavilion was fantastic and a very moving experience. It was designed as a visual demonstration of the UK as a creative and innovative nation. 

Themed "Building on the Past, Shaping our future", the 6000m2 UK pavilion is also known as the "Seed Cathedral" and the area around it is designed like a wrapping paper, making it seem as if the wrappers have fallen open to reveal a sparkling jewel of life.

Its centre piece is a six storey high object formed from some 60,000 slender transparent rods, which extend from the structure and quiver in the breeze.

During the day, each of the 7.5m long rods act like fibre-optic filaments, drawing on daylight to illuminate the interior, thereby creating a contemplative awe-inspiring space. At night, light sources at the interior end of each rod allow the whole structure to glow.

“You enter the interior very cleverly and go to the inner chamber – the Seed Cathedral, made up of a million tubes of lighting coming at you. Each has a seed embedded into it. It is a sculptural composition underlining the importance of seeds – a metaphor designed to urge people to protect natural species from extinction,” says Patterson.

The seeds demonstrate the concept of sustainability, the diversity of nature and urge people to protect the environment for future generations. The UK pavilion hopes to raise awareness for the Millennium Seed Bank Project, an international conservation project launched by the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2000.

The pavilion sits on a landscape looking like paper that once wrapped the building and that now lies unfolded on the site. The whole structure looks like an unwrapped gift, meant as a show of goodwill to the Chinese people and the Shanghai Expo.

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Patterson comments that the overriding theme at the Expo for nations of the developed world is the concern for creating a sustainable built environment. He felt the Spanish pavilion was also extremely clever – exuberant and sophisticated. 

The Spanish Pavilion led by the design team Catalan EMBT Miralles-Tagliabue is one of the biggest pavilions at the World Expo. The space spanning 7,000m2 is categorized under the theme “Habitable Constructions.”

The design was inspired by wicker baskets, a handicraft deeply rooted in both Spain and China. The frontage of the pavilion is covered by wicker while the rest of the building is made from sustainable materials like bamboo and semi-transparent paper laid out on an intricate panel system.

Inside the pavilion, the exhibition covers three main content units: “From nature to city,” “From our parents’ city to our current one,” and “From the current city to the future one.” The pavilion has its east wing divided into three floors where the visitor can access several public services such as a tapas bar that holds up to 300 people and where cuisine based on Spanish products is offered. There is a shop, an auditorium with a 200 people capacity and a business centre used as a meeting place to increase and boost the Spanish business presence in China.

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