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August 23, 2009

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City's speed, change stimulates creativity

AS stories roll out about the style and content of pavilions on the Expo site, there is a tangible sense emerging of the creative thought each country is injecting and how they intend their "home" to convey national characteristics through the six-month event.

The challenge, in a nutshell, is to "import" their national traits into a structure and present the best of their current world with some futuristic twists.

The blank canvas that Expo presents on a virgin site is invigorating to architects and designers and the German pavilion's creator Lennart Wiechell (pictured below) is no exception.

"For designers, Shanghai is very inspiring because it is an extremely fast moving and changing city," he said. "There are many opportunities to experience the ideas of architects and other creative people.

"Even more interesting, there is a chance to realize your own ideas as it is open to many different philosophies.

"For that reason it is challenging but exciting and interesting to be part of the creative community of the city °?- even if the Expo pavilion will only be a temporary contribution," he added.

The 6,000-square-meter pavilion is considered an important project for Germany and in terms of scale, design and effort it is the largest commitment the country has made in its long Expo history. It will spend 30 million euros (US$43.09 million) on the project and expects to host around 9 million local and international visitors.

Like most of the other pavilions whose fate is pre-determined from concept stage, it's also designed and built to be dismantled.

"Generally it is important to use light construction methods to reduce construction times and costs," Wiechell said. "For this reason, the main structure is in steel and will be covered by a textile facade, a very light structure, rapidly erected and dismantled.

"The use of light material means reduced resource consumption, lower costs and construction times and thus spares environmental resources," he added.

In terms of the screaming creativity the sight seems certain to deliver to Expo visitors, Wiechell hasn't designed to compete and this is a recurring theme.

"Although the Germany Pavilion is a big sculpture, the pavilion will not be a design that screams out for attention. In contrast to other concepts, the space will be a contemplative one, offering a rest to everybody," he said.

"Temporary buildings are a very special subject in architecture and although the pavilions have to be designed according to local rules, there is greater scope for special concepts and ideas.

"In comparison to office buildings or apartment towers, the functionality of a pavilion does not automatically force the designer to adopt a specific shape. For this reason, the pavilions at Expo 2010 will present a vast array of different spatial concepts."

Wiechell has been true to his design craft and professional pride in eschewing the impact of other pavilions on the German environment he has created.

"It is important to find the right answer for people visiting the Germany Pavilion instead of looking to the other concepts," he said.

"The diversity of each pavilion creates the unique experience of Expo and expresses the diversity of the nations participating."

The pavilion was designed within the context of the plot and situation created by Germany and adjacent European pavilions forming an urban plaza by dint of the space between them.

"The Germany Pavilion enlarges this plaza, offering a shady urban space, a stage, an entertainment program, a restaurant and a shop area," he said.

"What was crucial for the design was to show the culture of German cities, the spirit of urban living."

The pavilion is composed of four exhibition structures that appear to hover. They create a roof protecting visitors from the weather as they wander through the landscape. Between them emerge interplays of interior and exterior spaces, of light and shadow, of closeness and vastness.

The structures stand as symbols for the interplay between carrying and being carried, between leaning on and supporting. Each individual structure, on its own, is in a precarious state of balance. It is only in the context of other structures that a stable balance is found. This is the concept behind the pavilion, named "Balancity."

"The visitors' discovery journey is through typical urban spaces: rooms for work and thought, spaces for recreation and leisure, rooms to live in and places for culture and community," Wiechell said.

They travel through, discover and explore the various rooms and spaces as if walking through a city, both actively and passively, at times by foot and at times via moving walkways.

And the designers have integrated a Chinese context.

"The protagonists Yanyan and Jens - at first virtually - accompany visitors on their journey through the pavilion," Wiechell said.

"Jens, the young German, shares his perspective on Germany with the Chinese student Yanyan and pavilion visitors.

"The journey starts outdoors in natural surroundings and then leads into the city, to typical German locations. Short dialogues between Jens and Yanyan focus on German highlights, bringing Germany's diversity to life in a way both informative and entertaining," he said.

The simple message of the pavilion behind the young architect's design is that a city can be a good place to live.

That's if it provides "a balance between renewal and preservation, innovation and tradition, urbanity and nature, community and individual development, and work and leisure," he concludes.


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