Architectural intention The French Pavilion for Expo 2010 Shanghai is a prototype for tomorrow’s metropolis. Over and above the sustainable city, we have sought to develop an urban proposal creating a synthesis between nature, technical innovation and the pleasures of city living.
The architectural project The French Pavilion is designed as a coherent and exemplary built landscape. Constructed around three major architectural concepts – lake, mineral grid and vertical garden – its refined geometrical form offers a serene yet surprising building. Rather than an exhibition stand or a fairground attraction, the pavilion seeks to provide an example of a possible architecture that can be adapted to other uses beyond Expo 2010.
Covering a surface of 6,000 sq. m., the Pavilion seems to float over a lake, suspended from a grid that is both sensual and structural. Rising up to a height of 20 metres, this steel lacework mantilla capped in white concrete meets seismic standards and provides a perfect illustration of French engineering prowess.
Lying the heart of this showcase, a large patio opens up to visitors. A formal French garden unfolds vertically, presenting itself as an unexpected theatre of greenery reflected in the mirror pool. Imagined as an initial exhibition space, the patio offers those queuing to enter the pavilion a cool oasis lit by an unexpected interplay of light and shade. In this way, the time spent waiting provides a sensual experience in its own right.
The route through the exhibition begins from the top floor, gently dropping down a ramp that winds around the garden. In this way, the landscape becomes central to the urban issue.
Contents: the Sensual City The French Pavilion is essentially aimed at Chinese visitors. Lasting a relatively short time of around 15 minutes, the visit is intended to be appreciated as a privileged space that places emphasis on dialogue between China and France. This is why the Pavilion’s underlying theme is that of the city of the senses – taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight –, senses shared by Western and Chinese sensibilities.
The Sensual City is a way of opening discussion as to the desirable future of the world’s great metropolises, a future where those living in an urban environment are the focus of all humanity’s technological skills. This vision goes beyond an approach simply based on sustainable development to incorporate the desire and pleasures of living in the city. The metropolis must be the 21st century’s natural landscape, a setting within which all the senses of those living there can be exercised. The simple and remarkable concept of the Sensual City is used to provide various points of view examining the experience of living in a large city, both now and in the future. The visit provides a unique experience, with associations and contrasts constantly evoking surprise and interest.
The scenography illustrates the balance between technology and sensuality, between creation and permanence, between city and countryside. It provides a setting for a spectacular video fresco that leads visitors through a series of French urban environments based on eight major themes: city and climate, city and gastronomy, city and nature, city and the future, city and the sky, city and movement, city and the night and, finally, city and water. This 250 metre long fresco is interspersed with a series of multi-sensorial installations that concentrate on the five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight.
In this way, the scenography provides a generous vision of the city, a serene and confident approach to the 21st century, an attitude where change and invention go hand in hand with the permanence of freedom, cultural identity, humanism and the pleasures of city living.