Shanghai Expo

You may have already seen images of the pavilions from the Shanghai World Expo, congratulations if you’re that cool, but I wanted to share some of the more impressive pavilions with the rest of us, and ask why the USA’s pavilion is so…. slaggy.

First we have the pavilion that’s getting all the attention: Thomas Heatherwick‘s pavilion for the UK:

Called the “Seed Cathedral” because seeds embedded in the acrylic rod are visible from the interior of the pavilion, this design is a little more evolutionary and revolutionary. Why? Because of this, a light shed thing, called Sitooterie II, built in the UK by Heatherwick two years ago, and also because of an earlier monumental sculpture by Heatherwick called B of the Bang, which was disassembled following safety concerns about the sculpture’s engineering. It’s normal to see work of designers evolve, but hard to image how Heatherwick with further obscure massing in future iterations. Prediction: Heatherwicks next fuzzy cube will replace thousands of acrylic rods with millions of fiber-optic hairs that blow in the wind.

And there’s the Danish Pavilion, designed by BIG.

This design approaches the realization of a Mobius Strip, but  is really more like a pretzel with a bike ramp and disappointing mermaid inside. The mermaid usually lives in Copenhagen, where Bjarke’s office is located, but I guess the Danes got tired of people stealing the statue and cutting her head off, so they decided to let another hemisphere have the chance to experience the disappointment and experiment with the destruction. They even provided get-away vehicles.

Speaking of disappointment

This is the work of  BRC imaginary arts. If you detect that this pavilion smells a little more corporate, it might have to do with the Architect’s idea of the role of World Expos: “World Expos and Mega Events are all about communicating your brand message to large audiences.” Because why innovate when you can sell stuff? Yes, the pavilion is as American as cheap plastic-ware made in China for sale at Wal-Mart. Is this the side of ourselves we want to cover in metal panels and invite the world to see?

The USA pavilion is an easy target, but its mere construction is an accomplishment. The largest obstacle was funding. Apparently it takes an Act of Congress to get government funding appropriated for these things. So $61 million dollars were raised in the private sector during the worst financial… you know the rest. It’s sad that the USA Pavilion lost all of it’s energy jumping through hoops to get funding. The better pavilions seem to be those that are exercises in geometry and structure… not exercises in corporate branding. But is it really that bad that we have an office park with a movie theater where our pavilion should be? Is it better than nothing at all?

May 3, 2010