Related News

Home » Feature

Chinese designer of Saudi pavilion

THE Chinese architect of Saudi Arabia's spectacular Expo pavilion says his "moon boat" design shows that Chinese architects are the equal of any in the world. Yang Jian reports.

The star-attraction Saudi Arabia Pavilion is the only foreign pavilion at the World Expo 2010 that was designed by a Chinese architect, and designer Wang Zhenjun says his work shows that Chinese architects are "world-class."

The pavilion, known as the "Moon Boat" after mystical boats in the tales of the Arabian Nights, was based solely on Wang's imagination and research - he had never visited the Saudi Kingdom.

It was only after bidding successfully and signing the contract in Riyad that Wang got a look at the land he knew from his childhood reading.

Moon boats, traditional oval-shaped vessels and flying carpets in the clouds were part of his inspiration.

The Saudi Arabia Pavilion, in Zone A, has set other records: the longest queues (up to nine hours) at the Expo, the most expensive pavilion (1.3 billion yuan/US$191 million), and the world's biggest 3D IMAX screen (360 degrees, 1,600 square meters).

The pavilion itself is stunning - the structure is the shimmering metalic "hull" of the moon boat (its prow toward Mecca) with a flat top where a desert scene is recreated with date palms.

But admittedly the throngs of visitors line up to experience the famous 15-minute "flying carpet ride" in the theater where visitors stand on a moving belt while pictures zoom in and out and around.

They experience nomadic life in the desert, modern life in the cities, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the exploration for oil and centuries of culture.

The pavilion's chief architect, Wang, is also chief architect of the China Electronics Engineering Design Institute in Beijing.

He says he is proud of the design and hopes his achievement demonstrates that Chinese architects are the equal of any in the world.

"I have always felt confident and pleased with my design, but I was still surprised when I learned on TV news that the Saudi Arabia Pavilion was one of the most popular," he says in an interview with Shanghai Daily.

In 2007 Wang and his team won the design competition that attracted top architectural firms from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Europe.

After being invited to compete in the selection, Wang spent days reading books about the culture, architecture and peoples of the Saudi Peninsula; He also consulted two professors of Arabic language and culture at Peking University in Beijing.

As the submission deadline neared, Wang thought of the fairy tales he had read during childhood - tales of magic carpets, oases and rivers in the desert, date palms and genies. They all came together in the "Moon Boat."

"The Arabian Night involves many symbols that people around world can recognize as the Arabian country," he says.

The boat also symbolized the Silk Road on the sea, another channel linking China and what is now Saudi Arabia.

The design ranked first in all three rounds held by the Saudi Expo organizing committee.

Wang also submitted an alternative pavilion design he called the "Happy Magic Cube," inspired by Kaaba, a mysterious black cube-shaped building in Mecca that all pilgrims must visit. His pavilion cube could open as a stage for Saudi performances. The judges also praised this plan but opted for the moon boat.

Wang says he hopes the Saudi Arabia Pavilion would be a symbol of Chinese design, noting the popularity of the pavilion proves that Chinese design is appreciated worldwide.

Moreover, Chinese designers can draw inspiration from the many impressive pavilions designed by foreign architects, he says.

In the future, landmark buildings in Chinese cities, such as Shanghai's Jin Mao Tower and World Financial Center, will be designed by Chinese architects, he says.

The Saudi Arabia Pavilion is designed to be recycled - dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere easily at relatively low cost.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend