It’s been almost one year ago, since the Commissioner General of the German Expo Pavilion, Dietmar Schmitz, signed the EXPO 2010 Shanghai participation contract between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Chinese organizers. The official ceremony was followed by a press conference, at which the German delegation presented the design of its “balancity” pavilion. Mr Hong Hao, Director of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, was very excited by the balancity concept: â€œThe German Pavilion will create a magical experience for visitors and really fit in with the â€˜Better City, Better Lifeâ€™ theme. It will be a hit with visitors and one of the most popular and most hotly anticipated pavilions at EXPO 2010.â€
The “balancity” pavilion is designed and planned by Consortium German Pavilion Shanghai, comprising Milla und Partner GmbH, Stuttgart, Schmidhuber + Kaindl GmbH, Munich, and NÃ¼ssli Deutschland GmbH, Roth.
This is how the German pavilion organizers explain the concept:
At the German pavilion in Shanghai, the Federal Republic of Germany is presenting itself as a multifaceted nation rich in ideas. As an innovative, forward-looking country that also places great value on the preservation of its roots and heritage. Diversity and balance, rather than â€˜samenessâ€™, are vital to tomorrowâ€™s cities. The interplay between the diversity and contrasts of German cities enables a very special quality of life and vitality to emerge. This is why we believe it is essential to preserve this diversity â€“ without forgoing innovation and technology.
The Federal Republic of Germany is intent on conveying this very personal German perspective â€“ credibly and memorably. Germanyâ€™s contribution to the EXPO 2010 â€œBetter City, Better Lifeâ€ theme is called:
balancity â€“ a city in balance between renewal and preservation, innovation and tradition, urbanity and nature, society and its individuals, work and recreation, and finally, between globalisation and national identity. This central idea can be directly experienced by visitors everywhere in the German pavilion. balancity â€“ a marriage of the terms â€œbalanceâ€ and â€œcityâ€œ â€“ is Germanyâ€™s interpretation of the â€œBetter City, Better Lifeâ€ Expo theme.
The thinking behind balancity is clearly reflected in the pavilion architecture. A city symbolises the balance between diversity and density, and is composed of many different historical layers, spaces, functions and environments.
In many cities, the industrial evolution from a production to a service orientation has led to large industrial spaces being transformed into attractive parks and residential environments. Nature and natural landscapes are slowly but surely finding their way into the city. In contemporary European urban planning, the historically defined antipodes of city and country are now dovetailing towards a single cohesive organism.
The resulting consciousness and commitment to sustainable, energy-efficient living concepts are leading to a definite integration of nature into urban spaces and architectural concepts.
The architecture of the German pavilion is very much like a dynamic, urban organism, an accessible three-dimensional sculpture, mirroring the diversity of life in the city and the country in Germany.
The pavilion grounds are located to the South of the Lupu bridge on Shanghaiâ€™s Pudong side, and cover a surface of close to 6,000 square metres. Immediate pavilion neighbours are France,
Poland and Switzerland. The four pavilions are grouped around a small EXPO plaza which is intended for events.
Each of the four sides of the German pavilion are dedicated to different functions. The South side comprises the infrastructure with service and technical support rooms, and can be reached via a separate access road. The North side is the representative side of the pavilion to be experienced by visitors. The restaurant, the entrance to the exhibition, the souvenir shop and the event space are accessed from the North-West EXPO plaza.
The pavilion is composed of two key elements: landscape and structure. A terraced landscape with event area stretches from the ground level up to the third floor. Above this, four exhibition structures appear to hover. They create a roof protecting visitors from sun and rain as they wander through the landscape. Between these exhibition structures and the landscapes, an interplay of interior and exterior spaces, of light and shadows, of closeness and vastness, emerges.
The terraced landscape
The infrastructure of the pavilion, visitor information, souvenir shop, service areas and offices will be integrated to an accessible terraced landscape. They create a T-shaped floor plan whose longitudinal side borders the access road. The pavilionâ€™s complete service area is located in this rear part of the pavilion. The short branch of the T-shaped floor plan splits the ground floor space into a landscape area and an urban area. This is where an event area will be located with a stage, space for temporary exhibitions and events, a souvenir shop and the German restaurant.
The visitorsâ€™ journey through balancity begins at the terraced landscape on the ground level. Like a labyrinth, the path winds its way towards the entrance to the pavilion, as a variety of spatial situations emerge, a tunnel, squares and courtyards. It then ends on a terrace on the first floor, opening up a view onto the landscape and the pavilionâ€™s urban square. Via a tunnel, the visitor enters balancityâ€™s staged urban experiential environments.
The German pavilion as a sculpture
Four large exhibition structures stand as symbols for the interplay between carrying and being carried, between leaning on and supporting. Each individual structure, on its own, is in a somewhat precarious state of balance. It is only in interaction with the other structures that a stable balance is found. This is the concept behind balancity from an architectural perspective.
The four structures together create a large roof over the pavilion landscape, offering visitors shade and protecting them from rain. An exciting interplay of interior and exterior spaces, of buildings and nature, of urban and rural landscapes.
The journey through the exhibition structures is set up like a promenade. The visitors move along pathways, at times on moving walkways, as they are led through the various urban spaces. Double storeys merge with single storeys, and the slopes and turns in the different spaces moderate the visitor flow.
At the end of the path, the visitor reaches a twelve-metre high, vertical amphitheatre-like room â€“ the Energy Source. Following the show in the Energy Source, the visitor is gradually led downwards
in a spiral consisting of three staircases, where he finally reaches the pavilionâ€™s event area.
City of ideas - The visitorâ€™s journey through balancity, accompanied by Jens and Yanyan
Rooms and spaces
The visitorâ€™s journey though the German pavilion is a discovery of balancity. The visitor travels through typical urban spaces: rooms for work and thought, spaces for recreation and leisure, rooms to live in and places for culture and community.
Visitors travel through, discover and explore balancityâ€™s various rooms and spaces as they would trough a city, both actively and passively: at times by foot, and at times via moving walkways. The protagonists Yanyan and Jens â€“ at first virtually â€“ accompany visitors on their journey through the pavilion. Jens, the young German, shares his perspective on Germany with the Chinese student Yanyan and pavilion visitors. The journey through the German pavilion begins outdoors in natural surroundings and then leads into the city, to typical German locations. Short dialogues between Jens and Yanyan underscore German highlights, bringing Germanyâ€™s diversity to life in an way that is both informative and entertaining.
The point of arrival for pavilion visitors is an accessible terraced landscape. Very large postcards of German landscapes and landmarks from the various federal states â€“ written by Jens to Yanyan â€“ are positioned along the way. The visitors reach the inside of the city, moving past interactive displays, which offer impressions of life in Germany for all the senses. At the same time, these postcards serve as photo-taking points, where even waiting in the queue can turn into an exciting and fascinating discovery tour.
The visitorsâ€™ path slowly climbs leading to a ramp. Here, aerial shots of typical German urban structures are set in the floor along with displays or interactive exhibit-posts that open up a multitude
of impressions â€“ as through a magnifying glass. Via explanatory texts, exciting facts and figures on German cities, the visitors can find out more about the individual images â€“ the sounds, sights, feelings and even the scents of Germany.
In groups of 20, visitors are let into the city. They enter a moving walkway passing through a pulsating tunnel and, via multimedia presentations, they are drawn into a sea of urban images and sounds: trains, cars, buses and loudspeaker announcements interspersed with bird calls, the sounds of a rowboat in motion and childrenâ€™s laughter.
The end of the tunnel opens up onto a deep-blue underwater room where visitors experience the sounds of water, air bubbles and shimmering reflections. They break through the surface of the water above and enter a fascinating futuristic urban environment: the Hamburg harbour with daylight atmosphere, blue sky, the cry of seagulls, people. Spectacular skylines emerge and typical harbour sounds resound. It is not only about renewal here. It is also about preservation, about creating something new on a platform of heritage and tradition.
A new, even larger room unfolds out of an urban skyline, with oversized plans, models, sketches and urban plans protruding from the walls and floor â€“ as if drifting in the wind. The theme here is innovative, sustainable urban planning and development, depicting the urban infrastructure as a living process. The plans and sketches evolve and take on further shape. At the end of the room, visions emerge: new types of urban life, ideas on how people of various ages, lifestyles and nationalities could live together in the future. Yanyan and Jens offer insight on these ideas and projects from Germany.
Moving through a bright sea of flowers radiating energy, power and vitality, the visitor enters balancityâ€™s garden. The room depicts images, sounds and three-dimensional objects, bringing to life the significance of private green spaces and moments of relaxation amidst a modern, pulsating metropolis. As well, children can access the next room via a huge slide.
A large, dark, red-shimmering room welcomes visitors on their journey through balancity. Shelftype structures reaching up to the ceiling are filled with famous inventions and design products â€“ articles that enhance the quality of life in the city. Here, we present the diversity of German design and technology developments. The visitors then enter a state-of-the-art production hall: the Factory.
This is a room that is in constant motion. Visitors are led by moving walkways through the factory where conveyors belts cross each other at different levels above them. These are carrying the innovations, the products, the processes created by German companies and institutions. At interactive scanner stations, visitors can find out more about the objectsâ€™ functions. Technical information is available as well. A further area of the factory presents futuristic material developments from Germany, where visitors are invited to touch, feel, smell and directly experience these materials.
In clear contrast to the Factory, the urban space that follows radiates peace and serenity: with daylight atmosphere, a fresh breeze, the scent of flowers and birds chirping. â€œViewing bellsâ€ offering 360Â° panoramic perspectives are suspended from above, opening the way for visitors to experience public green spaces in German cities.
Behind the Scenes
The journey through the city leads visitors away from the daylight towards an environment with stage lighting. The visitors enter a room full of life behind the stage. A variety of cabinets open up views onto cultural projects, where visitors can experience the significance of culture to urban life.
In the German pavilion, the Opera is presented as a location where encounters take place, where culture, art and tradition are preserved and evolved. At the entrance to this area, the visitors cross a theatre curtain, and they hear applause. Surprised, they realise they are standing in the middle of a stage with an orchestra pit and a small tribune. They are actually part of the staging in a modern opera performance.
Once the visitors leave the Opera, a large room opens up in front of them. They are now at the centre of balancity, in a large square which also serves as a waiting room. This area stretches over many levels. An enormous window, with a semi-transparent membrane, opens up onto a view of the sky and the German pavilionâ€™s front square.
The exterior walls show a multitude of images, depicting the personal lives of city dwellers, beginning with close-ups of German living rooms, to views onto buildings and streets, all the way through to public spaces at large events. They communicate the energy, the vitality that arises from the diversity and coexistence of many cultures in Germany â€“ showing the centre of German cities as a meeting point for community, positive feelings and vitality.
This is where visitors wait for admission to the show in the Energy Source. The Energy Source is positioned in the cone which mysteriously pulsates in deep red tones at the end of the space. From the inside of the cone, you can hear various sounds and calls, as anticipation and suspense mount.
The Energy Source is where the energy a city needs to live originates. It is the heart of balancity and the ultimate highlight of the German pavilion.
Here, the focus is on the visitors. They can control what takes place, thus becoming active players. Through an impressive community experience, they find out that much can be achieved when they move together.
The visitor enters an awesome, impressive room filled with an exciting light choreography. Spectators on the galleries look out onto the roomâ€™s focal point: a huge sphere. The sphere has a diameter of three metres and its surface is covered with thousands of LEDs, with images, colours, shapes. The sphere acts as an activator of impulses from Germany for EXPO 2010 â€“ ideas that Germany contributes to the Expoâ€™s central â€œBetter City, Better Lifeâ€ theme. The sphereâ€™s movements and at the same time, impulses, are activated by the visitors, guided by Yanyan and Jens, who virtually accompanied visitors on their journey through balancity and who now appear in â€˜real lifeâ€™.
The visitors are split into two groups. Both groups quickly realise that they can activate the sphere with their movements and loud calls. It begins to swing back and forth. The greater the swinging motion, the more intense the colours become. The sphereâ€™s energy is reflected throughout the complete amphitheatre â€“ on its balustrades, walls, ceiling and floor.
The motion the visitors have activated takes on speed and intensity. The sphere begins to oscillate. A multitude of images from Germany and from balancity flash by the visitorsâ€™ eyes.
Then, the sphere becomes still. The room gleams in a green light and a natural, very pleasant atmosphere â€“ including a blue sky â€“ takes over. A globe transforms into a seed, the seed into a blossom. New life emerges. With positive feelings in their hearts, our visitors leave the German pavilion, filled with a common energy â€“ and taking new, attractive and unforgettable images from Germany for their journey ahead.
The German Pavilion - Key Facts:
Title of the German Pavilion: balancity
Size of pavilion plot: Approx. 6,000 mÂ²
Pavilion size: Approx. 5,750 mÂ²
Pavilion height: 20 m
Staff: Approx. 130
Visitor capacity: 39,000 â€“ 46,000 per day
Total expected visitors: 7.2 â€“ 8.6 million
Share of total number of EXPO visitors: 10 â€“ 12 %
Duration of pavilion visit: 15 to 45 minutes
Duration of pavilion show: 5 â€“ 7 minutes
Show frequency: 65 â€“ 78 per day, 11,960 â€“ 13,500 throughout the duration of EXPO
Design, planning and realization of the German Pavilion: Consortium German Pavilion Shanghai, comprising: Milla und Partner GmbH, Stuttgart, Schmidhuber + Kaindl GmbH, Munich, and NÃ¼ssli Deutschland GmbH, Roth
Images: Milla & Partner / Schmidhuber + Kaindl
Comment as :