The Swiss Pavilion

The Swiss Pavilion

element GmbH
Shanghai, China
Project Year
© Iwan Baan; Katarina Stuebe/FDFA Presence Switzerland

Architectural bridges between the urban and rural spaces

element GmbH as Architects

The symbiosis between the urban and rural environments is embodied in the architecture of the Swiss Pavilion. The design created by Buchner and Bründler Architects and element Design of Basel presents a hybrid construction of technology and nature, uniting city and countryside and maintaining a balance between them. The building’s fundamental structure is comprised of a generously dimensioned roof covered in vegetation and two load-bearing cylinders. The space under the roof and the two cylinders inside the pavilion constitute the urban space. The impression of this urban space is deliberately amplified both physically and acoustically, and further weight is added to the impression by the flow of visitors, who are guided through the pavilion up and then down a system of spiral ramps in the shape of a double helix. Acting as both a complement and a contrast to this is the roof with its mildly undulating topography and its vegetation cover, represented as an open, tranquil landscape flooded with light. The element providing the link between the two spaces is the chairlift. It transports the visitors up out of the heaviness of the city into the lightness of nature and then back again.

The exhibition on “rural-urban interaction”

The Swiss Pavilion presents Switzerland through an exhibition dedicated to the Expo sub theme of “rural-urban interaction”, which is the brainchild of the element Design. Human beings, nature and technology are in balance with one another in the overall concept for the pavilion’s exhibition. A continuous ramp with a width of three meters collects the visitors directly at the pavilion’s curtain façade. As they climb once round the circumference of the Main Cylinder for the first rime, they have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the pavilion’s principal features. The ascending ramp provides visitors with general information about Switzerland. This is done through the first ten 3D viewers, which display three-dimensional views looking into Switzerland. The ascending ramp ends with the Exhibition Area in the Main Cylinder. This houses the "Face to Face" installation, where twelve life-size Swiss people on made-to-measure electronic screens face their visitors and tell them about their lives in Switzerland. The central message conveyed by this installation is the need for people to act responsibly and sustainably as the precondition for a healthy and sustainable future. The protagonists are a mixture of famous Swiss personalities and ordinary people. There are representatives from all of Switzerland’s linguistic regions, each speaking to the visitors in the national language that is their own, with translations into Chinese or English.

The twelve characters in this installation stand in front of a background comprised of a large projection screen more than ten meters high showing filmed landscaped sequences. The film has been edited as a continuous loop of deliberately slow-moving images from Switzerland, which give the viewers sufficient time to take in details of the landscapes. Its message is one of the omnipresence of the mountains in Switzerland, whose beauty there is no denying on the one hand, but which represent a rough and difficult habitat for human beings on the other hand.

Visitors continue their tour of the exhibition by walking down the descending ramp. Another forty 3D viewers have been positioned along it, and these present the visitors with three-dimensional glimpses of innovative and sustainable Swiss success stories. They show tangible solutions practiced in Switzerland on the subjects of air quality, water quality, sustainable construction and public transport. The descending ramp forms a double helix with the ascending one as it takes the visitors down to the entrance to the chairlift. The chairlift has been assembled in the pavilion’s second cylinder, which is open-topped and has greenery on its vertical walls. The visitors sway gently as the chairlift carries them up to the landscaped roof. Here it emerges onto a green meadow with a mildly undulating topography and the accompaniment of an acoustic installation. After the rooftop circuit, which takes about four minutes, the chairlift joins the double helix again and brings the visitors back down to the ground floor, the urban space. That is the end of the exhibition tour as such. Once the visitors are back in the urban space, however, they are free to spend some time there and to visit the shop, the public restaurant or the temporary exhibitions, which follow on from one another in the exhibition space on the ground floor.

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