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August 3, 2009

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Finns to focus on leisurely lifestyle

FLOATING on a big bathtub after having a pleasant Finnish sauna and enjoying some sky watching on a sunny afternoon - the leisure experience can be realized in the Finland Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Finland has promised that visitors will feel being "far from madding crowd" at its Expo pavilion, which was inspired by the beautiful natural scenery of the Scandinavia land.

The Northern European country's pavilion will be shaped like a kirnu, a Finnish word that means a bowl-shaped rocky hollow formed naturally along the seashore.

Finland was long, long ago buried under ice. As the glaciers ebbed and flowed, rushing water would spin a boulder into the bedrock to leave a smooth round rock deep in a perfectly shaped hole - that is the kirnu rock, and the shape of the Finland Pavilion.

The 3,000-square-meter pavilion will be surrounded by a lake in a square shape. It will resemble a white and ethereal ice bowl floating over water. A smooth bridge will lead toward the entrance, forming a shady and inviting portal to the pavilion.

Elements of nature will be reinterpreted in the pavilion, like the shape of small rocks, fish on the surface, reflections on water, a framed view of the sky and the smell of tar on wood.

The pavilion's chief designer Teemu Kurkela said he wanted to give visitors the relaxing feeling of "lying on an island and watching the sky."

He said he got the idea on a small island in Finland during his summer vacation in 2008. He said he was alone on the about 10-square-meter island.

He lay on the island and watched the sky and birds. The fish were swimming across his fingertips.

"At that time, I decided to build a pavilion to share the pleasant feeling with people around the world," he said.

Like nature, the pavilion will offer a quiet refuge from busy city life for anyone who wishes to enter, said Pertti Huitu, Finland's commissioner general for the Expo.

The facade of the pavilion will be in the same color as white marble.

The material will be made from wood fragments and paper pulp which can be totally recycled. "It will seem like plastic, but smell like wood," Huitu said.

Inside the three-story pavilion, sheer walls made of fabric rise toward the sky. The displays and lighting fixtures integrated into the floor will create a virtual exhibition that visitors walk over.

A gently sloping ramp ascends within the thick walls of kirnu toward the exhibition hall, a high space that winds around the atrium.

After the exhibition hall, the ramp will continue downward to the exit, shop and restaurant.

Finland will attempt to capture the ideas of well-being, competence and the environment in its pavilion and exhibition.

Finnish people believe the three elements compose "the beautiful life," said Huitu.

The country's exhibit will be based on the theme "Sharing Inspiration," promoting ideas on how to improve people's living standards.

Sharing has become an increasingly popular way of life between individuals and organizations helped by the rapid development of technology. Finland encourages people to share with each other, Huitu said.

Kirnu also means an exchange of ideas, and Finland welcomes suggestions for a better life, he added.

The official declined to elaborate on the detailed exhibition plans of the pavilion but revealed the biggest highlight and surprise would be a sauna area on its third floor.

A 100-square-meter sauna room, including supporting shower and bathing area, will serve some VIP visitors to the pavilion. About 15 people will be able to bath together. The Finnish Expo team is considering letting more visitors enjoy the old tradition of the country, Huitu said. "The sauna is a symbol of Finland."

The country has a total of 500,000 sauna houses for its 5.3 million population and almost every home has at least a sauna room.

Finnish people also build a sauna room when they build houses in a foreign country. It is an old tradition, he said. "I believe all those who try the sauna will like it," he added.

The Finnish government will dismantle the pavilion after Expo and move it to other places in China, Huitu said, using it as a restaurant, office building or library.

More than 10 Chinese companies and institutes have expressed their interest in buying the pavilion after Expo and keep the kirnu in China.

"The construction will be a reminder of the inspiration of Finland," Huitu said.

What to see?

Elements of nature in Finland will be represented in the pavilion, like the shape of small rocks, fish on the surface, reflections on water, a framed view of the sky and the smell of tar on wood.

What to eat?

A food outlet will be jointly run by a Shanghai and a Finnish restaurant and offers special menus that mix the flavors of the two cuisines. The chefs will study each other's cooking, those from Shanghai visiting Finland in September and the Finns coming to Shanghai in August.

Want to have fun?

A 100-square-meter sauna room will serve some VIP visitors to the pavilion. About 15 will be able to bath together.


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