On May 1, the most expensive World Expo in history, eight years in the making, finally opened in Shanghai. Although there were a few snafus during the previews and opening, there was no denying that this was a remarkable gathering the likes of which might never be seen again.
Tremendous sums were spent on the pavilions: The Saudi Arabian Pavilion, a "Silk Road treasure ship," cost about RMB1 billion (NT$4.8 billion). The Japanese Pavilion, a "purple silkworm island" that combines technology and environmental consciousness in interesting ways, ran to about RMB900 million. The Spanish Pavilion, constructed to resemble a large Spanish basket, cost 55 million, and the German Pavilion, with its "city in balance" theme, cost 50 million. Even bankrupt Iceland spent US$2 million to create its ice-cube-like pavilion. No wonder Southern Weekend, one of mainland China's most important media outlets, used the phrase "come hell or high water" to describe nations' ardent determination to attend Expo 2010 even in the midst of the financial crisis.
Precisely because Expo 2010 is unprecedented for its scale, character and the designs of its pavilions, Taiwan Panorama visited some of its most celebrated pavilions-including those of China, Spain, Japan and Korea-with the aim of serving as our readers' advance scouts. In the pages that follow, let us lead you on a tour!
When wandering through the World Expo site, which covers 5.28 square kilometers, whether you're to the west or east of the Huangpu-or even, for that matter, on the shuttles crossing the river-you are almost always in sight of the central Chinese Pavilion, which, at a height of 69 meters, is about three times as tall as most pavilions and bright red in color.
In 2007 the Shanghai World Expo Coordination Bureau announced an open competition to design the pavilion. From 344 entries, it ended up choosing the submission by He Jingtang, dean of the architecture school at South China University of Technology in Guangdong Province. Finding inspiration in traditional Chinese four-legged ceremonial vessels, he employed a modern steel structure to create a multilayered style similar to the dougong (bucket arch) system of brackets, which supported the elaborate upturned eaves in traditional Chinese ceremonial and palace architecture. From afar, the Chinese Pavilion looks like a classical red mandarin's hat, and up close it looks like a traditional Chinese vessel for measuring grain. It's very striking.
The red color scheme, which was chosen to put a "Chinese Red" face on the pavilion, is also one of its most arresting visual elements. From among 100 different shades of red, colorists and traditional craftsmen inspected the reds at the Palace Museum in Beijing and picked seven, including light red, vermillion, bright red and magenta. They then applied these shades to the pavilion and its metal panels at varying heights and in consideration of how light would reflect.
He Jingtang has explained that he picked red to be China's face to the world because it represents jubilation, wealth, and sumptuousness, and because it possesses a "Chinese flavor." The tall and brightly colored Chinese pavilion and the 31 local (provincial and municipal) pavilions that encircle it suggest a king surrounded by his entourage, and they announce magnanimously (or domineeringly, depending on one's perspective): "Here is the eastern crown, flourishing China, a place where granaries are full and people prosper."
Apart from its eye-catching exterior, the Chinese pavilion is also fully "green" architecture. It looks like a stack of layers broad at the top and narrow at the bottom that is supported by four "legs," and this design allows for natural ventilation under its central structure, providing welcome sun in winter and cooling shade in summer. When the summer sun rises high, the sun's rays are blocked from hitting the area underneath where crowds are waiting.
What's more, the roof of the Chinese Pavilion has a water collection system, as well as solar panels that are sufficient to supply all the electricity needed to power the pavilion's lights. At the ends of what appear to be exposed beams on all four sides of the pavilion are openwork grates with seal-style Chinese script marking the points of the compass. Apart from providing visual interest, these grates also provide ventilation, bringing air into the building through the hollow beams. It's a design element that demonstrates great craftsmanship.