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August 9, 2009

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Germans push life's balance

IN a room with cone-shaped structure, 300 people spread out along a spiral-shaped gallery. They shout and clap hands, and a 1-ton metal sphere -- 3 meters in diameter in the center of the cone -- begins to sway and rise reacting to what they do. The LEDs on the surface of the ball display a kaleidoscope of images.

People can join this fantastic game in the Germany Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. It is the highlight section provided by the German Expo team aiming to attract more than 9 million visitors across the world.

The pavilion is mainly 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 these structures emerge interplays of interior and exterior spaces, of light and shadows, and of closeness and vastness.

The four exhibition 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."

Cities can be great places to live, as long as there's balance in diversity instead of uniformity and monotony. It's all about equilibrium and harmony.

The 6,000-square-meter pavilion, Germany's largest-ever at any Expo, showcases German urban life and how German design and products can help solve urbanization problems.

It's Germany's contribution to the Expo theme "Better City, Better Life."

The pavilion will demonstrate the importance of balance between modernization and preservation, innovation and tradition, community and individual, work and leisure, as well as globalization and national identity, says Peter Kreutzberger, deputy commissioner-general of the German Section in the Expo.

Pavilion architect Lennart Wiechell says the highlight of the pavilion is the cone-shaped structure called the Energy Source.

To begin the show, spectators must shout and move, according to the directions of the two virtual guides. The image display will respond to the movement and sound. The more active people are, the more energy they will create, the more the sphere will react.

"Each individual will help generate the city's energy," Wiechell says. "The performance will show visitors to the Germany Pavilion that together they can make things happen."

"We expect that many people, especially children, will come to our pavilion for the ball game," Kreutzberger says.

The show will last for 10 minutes and 300 people can take part in each time.

Kreutzberger says it would accommodate people touring around the pavilion so that "they can finish the visit in 10 minutes just for the show, or visit other areas for two hours."

The journey through "Balancity" would start at the terraced landscape on the ground level.

Like a labyrinth, the path winds toward the pavilion entrance, as a variety of spatial situations emerge -- a tunnel, squares and courtyards. It then finishes on a terrace on the first floor, opening up onto the landscape and the pavilion's urban square. Via a tunnel, the visitor enters the pavilion's urban experiential environments.

The journey through the structures is set up like a promenade. Visitors move along pathways, at times on moving walkways, as they are led through the various urban spaces. Double stories merge with single stories, and the slopes and turns in the different spaces moderate the visitor flow.

The end of the tunnel opens onto a deep blue underwater room where visitors experience the sounds of water, air bubbles and shimmering reflections.

They break through the surface of the water above and enter a fascinating futuristic urban environment: the Hamburg harbor with daylight atmosphere, blue sky, the cry of seagulls and people.

Visitors will also be invited to the country's garden, depot, park and to view the city's urban planning.

The Invention Archives and Innovation Factory will offer new German-designed products and cutting-edge inventions.

Germany's federal states and regions will showcase their urban innovations. Hamburg's HafenCity, for example, is a pioneering urban development project that preserves the old and the new, giving old urban districts a new function and enhanced quality of life.

Visitors can experience innovative fabrics and materials in the Materials Garden. Of course, there will be German opera, and quiet garden spots for rest.

"We want to offer visitors, most of whom will be Chinese, an appealing, experience-oriented concept," says Schmitz.

"Through Balancity we will show that cities can be good places to live in if there is balanced diversity rather than uniformity and monotony."

The German government will invest 30 million euros (US$43.09 million).


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