Monday, May 03, 2010

Danish Pavilion Expo 2010

Danish Pavilion Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China by BIG

Photographs are by Iwan Baan.

On Saturday the Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China opened to the public. About 200 countries are represented by 400 pavilions, including The Danish Pavilion designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The pavilion is located in Zone C in Houtan, a small area west of Lupu Bridge in the Pudong Section of Shangai. Zone C includes other European pavilions as well as American and African ones for the six-month celebration. The Danish Pavilion is an assemblage of notable Danish virtues and attractions: city bikes, harbor water, nature playground, a picnic on the roof, and Hans Christian Anderson.

BIG won a competition for the pavilion with a design that curls the linear exhibition space in a double loop, locating the harbor bath in the middle and a bike ramp on top. Their design controversially proposed shipping the actual Little Mermaid (based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name) to Shanghai to occupy the middle of the harbor bath, a successful maneuver that included a proposal for Chinese artists to envision a temporary replacement in Copenhagen Harbor for the duration of the Expo. Ai Weiwei's Mermaid Exchange recreates the image of the missing icon via an LED screen erected in situ in Langelinie.

The Danish Pavilion's striking design appears to be a gravity-defying construction, but it is based on construction used for ship construction. In essence the structure is "one giant self-supporting tubular truss" with perforated external walls whose openings vary depending on the structural stress of that location; at night these openings give the pavilion a glowing, pixelated appearance. The whole is painted white, strongly highlighting the harbor water and the Little Mermaid in the loop's center.

The most successful Expo pavilions, in Shanghai and throughout history, are a combination of a strong form matching an equally strong conceptual strategy. (Think of the Blur Building by Diller + Scofidio.) The double loop directly relates to the bicycle culture of Denmark, and its form creates a center of sorts -- in a post-postmodern way -- that needs to be occupied by something. Thinking of the design in terms of these two elements, the exhibition is tertiary, an important programmatic element but not the driver of the form. Opening day photos illustrate how the double loop and its raised open spaces, always giving view to the Little Mermaid, are a popular landscape. With bike rentals on the roof, the Danish influence at Expo 2010 will extend beyond the confines of this small pavilion.