On the first of May 2010, the new Universal Exposition started in Shanghai. China expects 70 million visitors at the Expo 2010 with the theme “Better City, Better Life”. Belgium is also present at this universal exposition with a pavilion with a surface of about 5.600 m², constructed in an area dedicated to European pavilions.
Constructing a Belgian pavilion for a Universal Exposition in Shanghai forced us to adopt a different approach. The Chinese culture, which radically differs from ours, the scale and density of Shanghai are not comparable to the European context. The context of the project asked for a specific approach to present Belgium and Europe and to arouse the interest of the visitors to the Expo for our culture, our creativity, our talent and our companies, all situated in a very different context. The pavilion is created around the structure of a “Brain Cell”, being the dominant conceptual image for the building. It evokes the artistic richness of Belgium and Europe, as well as its scientific achievements which contribute to the development and enrichment of our cultural and intellectual patrimony. During the conceptual phase of the project, in close collaboration with our Chinese partners, this image presented itself as an obvious choice to represent Belgium. It will be able to spark the curiosity of the visitors and their willingness to discover the diversity of Belgium and its intrinsic qualities. The Brain Cell also refers directly to the role of Belgium as one of Europe’s main gathering centres and cross-points of 3 great cultural traditions: the Latin, the Germanic and the Anglo-Saxon. Belgium, closely connected to its surrounding countries, has always been a “place of balance” where people have gathered with common interests that surpass their national needs. This makes Belgium one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution and the European Union. In contrast to the playful, organic and intriguing form of the Brain Cell, the exterior of the building refers to the pragmatism and the discretion typical of Belgium. A big roof structure offers a communal shelter, functioning as a flexible, pleasant and convivial public space, fully open to the outside world. The changing lights and colours of the Brain Cell will naturally be integrated in Shanghai, “city of lights”. The multitude of visual effects in the pavilion echoes the European Clair-Obscur movement and the Chinese shadow theatre are visible from the main public spaces in front of the pavilion.
The pavilion is composed of a structure which is easy to build, to disassemble and to recycle. To adapt the building to Shanghai’s warm and moist climate, the exterior is built up of three mainly closed façades, composed of metal plates. The pavilion does not only accommodate the exposition halls of Europe, Belgium and its communities and regions, but also offers convivial meeting places including a restaurant, a bar and a VIP-centre.
Belgium is a unique place within Europe where different cultures, races and believes cohabit, travel and meet. The pavilion wishes to combine this diversity of cultures in a balanced way. This unique combination on a relatively small territory has made Belgium a fertile and creative country, rich in resources and driven by a spirit of openness and tolerance.
In collaboration with JV Shanghai2010.be (Interbuild & Realys).