small pavilions: large expos
Lisa Rochon wrote a good piece in the Globe and Mail on the Canadian pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 which was handed off to Cirque de Soleil to sort out. Who needs architects any more? Theatre designers must be much more fun, however, this pavilion is a dreadful crinkle of stuff, inward-looking, quite random. But not, perhaps, as embarrassing as the Canadian pavilion at the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006 which was a gigantic log cabin with a Mountie parked outside.
We are not alone in having ghastly pavilions. Ireland's pavilion is a P3 project out of the Taoiseach office. Thomas Heatherwick did Britain's pavilion, a great waving anemone-like haze of fibre optic tentacles. Miralles did Spain's but I expect he wishes he hadn't.
The Shanghai Expo website describes all the pavilions with a particularly child-like wonder: the Russian pavilion, which looks quite beautiful, is '12 white towers inspired by traditional Russian womens' costumes. A 15m tall central building will link the towers. The 20m towers, in white, red and gold, will duplicate the ancient Ural towns dating back 3,000 years ago, but given a modern touch with their irregular shapes'.
Oh dear, oh dear, what does that mean, given a modern touch with their irregular shapes? Would one not think that in an exposition of science, technology, arts and architecture there would be just a little sophistication in how architecture was explained? It all sounds like a second-year design studio – lots of wild expression and very little rigour.
Wojciech Kakowski, Marcin Mostafa and Natalia Paszkowskahe, the architects of Poland's pavilion, seem to have the scale right: a folded plate that shifts the ground plane and shines like one of those lovely cut out tin lamps. It appears as less splash, less hubris and more thought. I wish it had been ours.