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May 9, 2010

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Matters of choice in China Pavilion design

AS the opening phase of World Expo 2010 Shanghai continues, people remain curious about the visually stunning China Pavilion and what's inside. Zhou Hong, an architect from Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design & Research Co Ltd, spent three years on the pavilion's construction site and talks about some of the stories behind this major Expo attraction.

Q: World Expo 2010 has now opened. How were you involved in the final stages of the China Pavilion?

A: Our team works in corporation with South China University of Technology and an architecture design and consulting company based at Tsinghua University. The China Pavilion consists of the National Pavilion of China -- the "Crown of the East" that attracts people's attention -- and the provincial pavilions that surround the crown. We coordinated exhibitions inside the pavilions. These were decided after the buildings were finished so we had to coordinate electricity, water supply and so on.

Q: How did the architecture team decide on the specific color of the National Pavilion of China?

A: It was a general idea to use "Chinese Red" because it is Chinese people's favorite and a traditional color. However, we discussed a lot about the strength of the color and we could not find a specific definition of "Chinese Red." When we asked Song Jianming, an expert on color research at China Academy of Fine Arts, he surprised everyone when he said "Chinese Red" is not a color, but a series of colors. For example, in the Forbidden City, the pillars, doors and even the walls are a slightly different red. So on his advice we decided to use four different red colors, from dark to light, on the facade of the China Pavilion to create a gradual visual range. We also use three different reds inside.

Q: What is the concept behind the exterior facade of the provincial pavilions being decorated with traditional Chinese characters representing 24 solar terms?

A: Actually I am lucky it was my idea that was chosen. We put our heads together for a long time about the contents of these characters. At first I was thinking of the four seasons, but then it jumped into my mind that the number of pillars in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing are 24, representing the 24 solar terms. Chinese culture is developed from an agriculture civilization. The solar terms, which are important guides for farmers, represent Chinese cultural origin.

Q: What do you think of the state of architecture given the increasing number of strange, exotic and innovative building designs in China?

A: Building design should be elegant and appealing on the condition that it meets functional needs. It is the first thing I learnt when I was studying architecture. In China, a lot of buildings are funded by government, so it is a major concern that the construction must satisfy its multi-functional purpose and be built for a reasonable price. A mature real estate developer does not have to spend a lot of money, but should keep in mind the need to satisfy not only short-term use but long-time functions.


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