Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shanghai Expo - UK Pavilion

The Brits were right - their pavilion is the best. After waiting in line for 3 hours, I started my journey towards the hairy cube. It was a pleasant and awe-inspiring one.

Underneath the folded landscape are exhibition spaces showing how cities and nature come together in the UK.

Turn around, through a steel bridge, is the entrance into the Seed Cathedral. The Seed Cathedral, designed by Heatherwick Studio, is made from a steel and timber composite structure pierced by 60,000 slender transparent acrylic rods, 7.5m long and 20mm square in section, passing through aluminum sleeves fixed at different angles on the building enclosure. The tip of each rod contains one or more seeds of a certain species. The seeds were collected in Millennium Seed Bank, a bio-diversity project initiated by Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in 2000 to collect the seeds of 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020.

Unlike the flashy multimedia displays in other technology-driven pavilions, the seeds in the UK Pavilion create an austere yet fascinating affect. They demonstrate the concept of harmony and sustainability, the diversity of nature, and the hope of life. During daytime, the rods act like fiber optic filaments, drawing in sunlight to illuminate the twinkling interior. At night, LED lights embedded in the rods will turn the whole structure into a glowing lantern.

Around the Seed Cathedral is a park as large as a standard soccer field. The angulated ground plane resembles an unfolded gift wrap. (OK, I admit this is a bit cheesy.) It provides a place for visitors to hang out and play, a theater for performances that come from the great traditions of the UK.

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