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Preview: Architecture of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai

The grand tradition of World Expos may seem a little quaint to Americans–evoking 1950s era images of flying cars and robot butlers. But the Expos still live, and the upcoming Expo 2010 in Shanghai, promises to be worthwhile since the city is using the event to anoint itself as the design capital of the new millennium. The theme is nothing less than "Better City, Better Life." For architecture and design fans, it’s going to be a bonanza–and we’re already getting a taste of the treats.

The grand tradition of World Expos may seem a little quaint to Americans–evoking 1950s era images of flying cars and robot butlers. But the Expos still live, and the upcoming Expo 2010 in Shanghai, promises to be worthwhile since the city is using the event to anoint itself as the design capital of the new millennium. The theme is nothing less than “Better City, Better Life.” For architecture and design fans, it’s going to be a bonanza–and we’re already getting a taste of the treats. This week, Norman Foster broke ground on a pavilion for the United Arab Emirates. To mark the occasion, we’ve gathered a few more of the pavilion designs that have been unveiled in the last couple of months.

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First up is the Foster design, which, true to the client’s home, was inspired by a sand dune. The structure is roughly textured on the wind-facing side, and undulating and sinuous on the side away from the wind. Functionally, there is a double-sideness as well: The northern side (which typically admits softer light, prized by painters and gallery curators alike) is porous to admit sunshine, while the southern side is solid, to minimize passive solar heating.

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Austria, homeland to many a musical genius–from the Von Trapps to Mozart and Beethoven–is taking music as the inspiration for its pavilion. A collaboration of two architecture firms, SPAN and Zeytinoglu Architects, both based in Vienna, the design is meant to be seamless and fluid. The architects insist that this evokes music, but you’d probably be more reminded of Zaha Hadid:

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Singapore’s entry will be a so-called “urban symphony” that showcases sustainable building practices. Designed by Kay Ngee Tan, it will be made of recycled steel, glass and aluminum. The building is to be passively air conditioned by chilled water; and it’ll be topped by a garden planted with indigenous Singaporean plants.

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Hong Kong is also taking up the mantle of sustainability, and its entry, designed by Chan Wai Ching, will be made of recycled steel that supports a a skin of nylon textiles. The three different floors will exhibit the city’s past, present and future.

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The Danish pavilion, designed by BIG, will be a microcosm of the lovely city of Copenhagen: Not only will the site be a docking station for 1,500 bikes borrowed from the city’s bike sharing program, but the looping ramps of the exhibition space will have a bike lane, so viewers will be able to ride through the show. On ground level, there will be a reflecting pool filled with seawater shipped in from Copenhagen Harbor–which, unlike the city itself, is not so green, but hey.



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Finally, Macau–most famous as being a ritzy gambling destination for Chinese vacationers–has produced what is so far the wackiest idea of the entire lot. Designed by China-based firm Carlos Marreiros, it will be shaped like a traditional jade-rabbit lantern, which were popular during ancient Chinese lantern festivals. (The Chinese do love their auspicious symbols, and architecture that resembles things; one reason that Herzog & de Mueron’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium was well-loved locally was that it was designed to actually look like a bird’s nest, a symbol of wealth, on the input of Ai Wei Wei, a Chinese artist.) The rabbit’s head and tail will be balloons; the body will be wrapped in a double-layer of glass and fluorescent screens

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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