Friday, May 28, 2010

In Shanghai, at the Expo 2010

I was away in Shanghai for a work trip. Was really glad and grateful to my boss as I was given this opportunity to visit the Shanghai Expo, except that this trip seemed so long. I often travelled a lot alone overseas, but this one felt exceptionally long... How strange that I longed to return much earlier, though there are much to be seen at the Expo. Perhaps I missed my family, church, friends, and my projects, one of which is towards the end of it... This is a trip that I learnt to let go and trust God for my project. For indeed, there is really nothing I can do so far away, placing it in the hand of God is the only thing and best thing I can and should do.

On 19 May 2010, at about 9pm, I visited Waterhouse Shanghai, I have a great time there. Seeing a conservation cum retrofitting work done in China, the design is very cool. The justaposition of new and old in the space. The reminiscent of old walls with new works. The use of mirror with timber for the window at the courtyard. The food. I pray that by the grace of God I can do works of such sort, and that the design inspired will be better than that, grace grace.
I visited the Shanghai Expo for the first time on 20 May 2010, Thursday, in the evening, with a colleague who has kindly brought me there to visit.

Canada Pavilion, I like the façade treatment, the use of facets of timber planks in triangular panels. However this design is very similar to a few other pavilions except for the use of materials. I particularly like the multi-media on the box like structures, the effect and its liveliness. There is also a very cute animation which is tied to the cycling machine. The animation is done in the former fashion of old cartoon rather than the 3D animation that is now so popular everywhere. We ended the pavilion entering into a short film, the sound and impact is very impactful here.

Chile Pavilion, I particularly like the smell of wood, it could be pine, as I entered the pavilion. Wood is used in very amazing ways here. There is a suspended wooden sphere that as you go, you enter in it and come out, descending down., into a huge gather space, with bar and wine. I like the charm of the transition of spaces. I visited this pavilion again with my colleagues in the day time. The effect of light streaming in is even better. Should not miss this if you like architecture.
Mexico Pavilion, It is one of the strangest pavilions if you can say that. The pavilion is sunken, and yet you surely will not miss it, due to the use of bright cheery colourful kite like forms above the pavilion. It is done almost like a landscape installation art. Much as it caught my eye, I didn’t really have much of a great remembrance of the works inside, it has a sense of an art museum, and that’s it, but still, one should still visit the outside at least. I went there again with my colleagues, to the landscape space, indeed during the daytime, due to the shade the kites provided, it is a very successful public space, where people sit and linger around to rest.
Norway Pavilion, I like this pavilion, as it exudes a very cheerful, cool and playful atmosphere, though I saw it at night. The internal is filled with little human figures and I later found out that none of them are repeated. The artist created them, almost each figurine has his or her own story to tell. I like it very much. And it was created in a forest effect, with leaf like form stuck onto the floor. Cool! Should not miss cos you will be charmed by the little figures.
I visited again the Expo on Sunday, 23 May 2010. We were there at about 8am, hoping perhaps we can get the pass to China Pavilion, but we were not that hopeful, as we understood from searching google, that people queued as early as 6-7am to get the pass. Moreover, we visited on a Sunday. Indeed it was super crowded, and the queuing time was really long. Thank God we have the wisdom of God, we rush straight in upon entering at about 910am when the gates open, to see the UK pavilion.

UK pavilion, this being the one pavilion that we particularly wanted to see, was the first we visited. When we reached, there was already quite a queue. Hairy looking thing, and it looks the same from almost every angle. It is the Seed Cathedral. I like it. I love the inside as well, the symbolism, the message behind is very strong and yet simple, no fanfare but plan simple message done in the most impressible way. With variety of seeds embedded inside the acrylic like tubes, and light from outside illuminating the seeds. The walk in into the pod and out of it was quite fun too, with installations and green planting. The fun part is on the undulating landform outside, where one can laze around to view the Seed. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time to do so… as we need to rush off to see more. (This is where I lost my cool, and shouted at a group of Chinese tourists who overtook our queue by climbing in front. The police was not present yet, otherwise I would have informed the police. This is barbaric behavior from the locals, they still have a long way to go.)
Luxembourg Pavilion, this pavilion has hardly any queue, but on the first night when I set foot on expo, when I saw this pavilion from afar, I already determined to see it in my next trip. Indeed, it was good. The treatment of spaces, the landscape was quite nicely put together. Not too long a queue, and good architectural and landscape space.
The Netherlands Pavilion, this was quite a letdown. We were expecting to see some cool architecture… but this pavilion seems very popular with a children.
France Pavilion, this looks so much like Prada in Tokyo from outside when I caught sight of it on my first night here, I though Prada sponsored it. (In actual fact, LV was the one who sponsored it, I suppose, for there are some pieces by LV inside.) Basically it is quite a good piece of architecture, touching on the 5 senses. The coolest part is they successfully evoke the sense of smell. Very humane, though the queue was long, the queue is constantly moving, and it is a very sensitive pavilion, bringing the people up via escalator straight to the top, and allowing them to descend slowly down by ramp, a very sensitive touch to architecture and human comfort. The air well was also really cool, with vertical plantings on the courtyard, almost like the old French garden on a vertical plane. I like it, shouldn’t miss this.
Spain Pavilion, we all agreed that among all the pavilions we have visited, the most impactful one would be this. I love the treatment of the façade, the placement of the rattan like nets, though it seems random, but when one stand from afar, there is a rhythm to the placement, with graduation of colours. Very sensitive. The drama is upon entering into the dark tunnel, with multi-media effects all around you, culminating with a lady who dance, and end off with the media, it was impactful. (Though I am not sure if they have passed the handicapped and fire escape issues). Upon exiting from the tunnel, one is “shocked” by a gigantic baby, done so real, eyelids are joined, hands and feet with clear skin lines. Quite scary at first sight. As to why? I didn’t read further, perhaps to tie back to the Expo theme on life….  Should visit this... a pavilion that can only be experienced and not captured by still pictures, video will be better, but I do not know how to upload my video files...
Denmark Pavilion, this is a fun pavilion, one can cycle up the ramp, the journey up was fun, there is an undulating bench, that almost looks like a roller coaster track. I like it very much. The focus is on the mermaid. The structure itself is amazing, a cantilievered ramp of about 5m twirling upwards, and as one reaches the top, one has quite a spectacular view of its surrounding. Good place to take photos of the other pavilions in the vicinity. The concept is that Denmark is a city that is planned for pedestrians and bicycle. Should visit.
Finland Pavilion, looks quite futuristic from outside. Simple decent pavilion. One enters into a circular airwell, when you are prompted to look upwards, and then you enter into a ramp. Visit if you have time.
Australia Pavilion, I felt this pavilion is overrated, as we queued so long. One ends with a short film, which I didn’t really enjoy. Façade wise, it is quite nice, except for the disturbing tubes/tunnels that puncture.
Israel Pavilion, we visited this as we are Christians. Not too bad, simple, they showcased more on their technology and contribution to science. Guess if you are Christians, you will visit this.
Korea Pavilion, this was a long wait. By the time we came to this Asia side of the Expo, it was already evening. So we didn’t manage to take a photo of the façade in the day. But the night façade is really charming, I love this pavilion. The wait is extremely long, and after we left the pavilion, we knew why. Although the queuing part was long, you can enjoy some free dances and video showing the concept of the pavilion, and short food commercial by Rain. There is a 20min short film, which is very heartwarming, it almost touched us to tears (this is what the South Koreans can do very well, Korean drama), worth watching, and that explains the long wait. They are smart, they capitalized on what they are good at. (This was where my colleague lost his patience and shouted at a Chinese who tried to overtake the queue, bravo, well done, my colleague, he deserved to be scolded! Everyone queued so long!) It is a great pavilion if you are a Korean drama fan.
Vietnam Pavilion, we are exhausted and we went into this one, seeing that there is no queue. And indeed, simple design but I like it except for the temple setting… the way the bamboo is used here is really well done, how in the world can one create a palace effect with bamboo? See it for yourself. Quite worthwhile if you have energy left.
Italian Pavilion, we went back again the next day, and queued about an hour to enter this. One of the pavilions that we wanted to see very much but too tired to queue yesterday. Indeed it is very good, if you like fine arts, design, fashion, furniture, wine, pasta, etc. the spaces are simple, almost like a museum setting, but I love it, simple, well organized, and the use of daylight was great. Showing forth good taste. Do take a look at the staff, all in Prada outfit, surely sponsored by Prada. Should visit.
Ireland Pavilion, I wanted to visit this when I saw it on the first night, as the design is very simple and pleasant. Inside, it is average, but not exceptional fantastic, can visit if you have time and there is no queue. The night view of the pavilion is better.
Belgium Pavilion, I read all the hooha about this, that there are diamonds, and chocolate given out free, so I was hoping maybe I could get a Godiva chocolate for free. It is average. Visit if you have time to spare only.
Hungary Pavilion, on our way to the American zone, we passed by this, small but quite interesting design. It will only take you 5mins to queue and see the inside, no harm. It is formed by tubes of water and square vertical poles inside and outside. Some of the poles move, and at the end of the poles are light. Can visit. This concept can be used for interior design in future… Good concept but not executed well enough.
Germany Pavilion, I went back again to visit this, thinking that if people are willing to queue for more than 3 hours for this pavilion, it must be fantastic. I queued for about 1-2h, it is quite a good pavilion, but it may not be worth that kind of wait. I enjoyed the walk through the “grassland”. However, to most who visited, I believed the most impressible one is the energy ball programme which is about 20mins. To move through the pavilion will take one approximately 45mins, that explains the long wait. An above average pavilion, but personally I felt it is not worth the queuing time.
Poland Pavilion, as I went with the main aim of seeing the Germany Pavilion, I left the pavilion feeling a little cheated, as I thought it should be better. Therefore to make my night ticket worthwhile, I visited Poland Pavilion which is of a little queue, in fact it only took me about 5mins to queue. But I was truly impressed. I love the cut out effect, the casting of the shadows, the lights behind the cut out, a bit like paper craft, a very romantic and cheery space. Good and worthwhile, small simple pavilion, done with great skill. Worth visiting, as the queue is also short. The music goes well with the lighting effects and architecture.
New Zealand Pavilion, I was trying to rush over to at least see the Singapore Pavilion, being a Singaporean, but as I reached at 1005pm, I was denied entry. I ended up visiting New Zealand Pavilion, which was open till 1030. It is a decent pavilion that uses outdoor space, a bit similar to Mexico Pavilion, but more towards nature. It was a pity that I visited late at night, therefore I could not really appreciate the landscape. I will rate it moderate. I still prefer Mexico Pavilion in terms of outdoor space.
The above is a quick summary of most of the pavilions that I visited. If time will permit, I would have also visited UAE and Japan Pavilions, but both are of extremely long queuing time. And I would love to visit the China Pavilion, but there seems no way to get the ticket except if I go and queue at 6-7am. However, all these I managed to catch glimpses of them but without going in.
China Pavilion
Singapore Pavilion (Music Box)
Japan Pavilion
UAE Pavilion (by Foster)
Portugal Pavilion (cord finish for facade)
Russia Pavilion
Serbia Pavilion
Switzerland Pavilion
Latvia Pavilion
Taiwan Pavilion
Sweden Pavilion
I may have visited only 10% of the whole Expo. Overall, it was indeed an eye opener. I have been pondering on the theme “Better City, Better Life”, but how many of the pavilions actually addressed this at the end of the day. I felt many are just merely showing what they have, but they seem to deviate from the theme. Selah. Therefore among those few that held close to the concept, I like UK, simple and true, no fanfare, down to earth. Much as I enjoyed Spain, France, Italy etc, I would vote UK as the one closest to my heart. As for architectural award, I vote Chile and France, I like Chile for the intimate space and the fragrance of wood, and France for bringing in the garden in a different way, for creating 3 totally different ambiences, on the outside skin, in the green courtyard and inside the tube/ramp. In terms of impact, I enjoyed Spain and Canada greatly, Norway and Poland come close in terms of creating a happy mood upon entering. As for the arts, I loved Italy and France. Hope you too have a great time at the Expo.