Is the US Pavilion the very worst in the Shanghai Expo?


I think the US Pavilion does reflect the state of American buildings overseas ie. embassies. It looks like a secure bunker. Where after someone had deciphered the near indeciphable regulations was left that!

Apr 26, 10 12:43 am
chatter of clouds

its not nastalgia at work here, more like the effects of pavlovian conditioning...that is, if we're considering that the pavilion was a result of a "lack of insight"

and if we were to consider that it is the result of a insidiously pertinent insight then maybe we can doubt that some american brainiac thought of the pavilion cum mall as a true representative of american culture. i would put my bet on the chinese influence, be it vide the american authorship (i'm almost concurring with Arturius, with an added emphasis on ability of the mythically humongous chinese consumption to turn tables on the traditional capitalist heirarchy ) ...they're masters at working out the base functional essentialism of products - and cultures in this case- and reproducing these for cheaper and for far more many. China can therefore incite/lead the USA to essentially-clone America far more eficiently than the USA can essentially clone itself by itself. a reversal tide of outsourcing.

Apr 26, 10 3:15 am
chatter of clouds

its not nastalgia at work here, more like the effects of pavlovian conditioning...that is, if we're considering that the pavilion was a result of a "lack of insight"

and if we were to consider that it is the result of a insidiously pertinent insight then maybe we can doubt that some american brainiac thought of the pavilion cum mall as a true representative of american culture. i would put my bet on the chinese influence, be it vide the american authorship (i'm almost concurring with Arturius, with an added emphasis on ability of the mythically humongous chinese consumption to turn tables on the traditional capitalist heirarchy ) ...they're masters at working out the base functional essentialism of products - and cultures in this case- and reproducing these for cheaper and for far more many. China can therefore incite/lead the USA to essentially-clone America far more eficiently than the USA can essentially clone itself by itself. a reversal tide of outsourcing.

Apr 26, 10 3:15 am
Bob Jacobson

tammuz, very powerful insight. China cloning America is quite possible, though to what end?

Apr 26, 10 3:22 am
chatter of clouds

simply to recreate a very lucrative commodity?
the notion, culture and lifestyle of the U.S is a commodity that has been advertised through countless films and commercials. anyway, hasn't china been doing that? with regards to []britain[/url] for example. this, China is very capable has turned what it normally does to profit from the outside (appropriating/copying/cloning the parts of this outside and selling it back to the outside) to profit from its own inside well-off market. to contrast, here in the gulf arab, where the "west" is equally a lucrative commodity, the gulf arabs have drafted in expats from all over to recreate these commercial oases. unlike the chinese, these arabs by themselves are not capable of 'forgery'. they send for the person/culture group who made the original in order to copy it elsewhere. crafty arabs...unlike the chinese, they don't morally compromise themselves (from the typical standpoint that treasures originality, uniqueness, individuality..etc) ...they buy the moral compromise of others.

Apr 26, 10 6:35 am
chatter of clouds

Apr 26, 10 6:37 am

although I think the design is awful based off of my superficial first glance, I do agree with others in that it is in a large way the most accurate representation of the architecture our country produces.

This line from the USA Pavilion website sums it all up: " this smart urban structure was designed by Clive Grout, an architect with World Expo experience"

Forget the opportunity to try and find the best design, we'll just use someone in-house, go the safe route, build what we already know and are comfortable with, don't rock the boat, don't push the limits, just give us a building so that we can get our stuff done.

Apr 26, 10 10:12 am

Secretary Clinton: “This USA Pavilion will showcase American innovation, it will demonstrate the kind of values that America holds dear – freedom, diversity, teamwork, creativity – and it will be built around the theme “Better Cities and Better Lives.”

Could you imagine what this would of looked like if we werent free and creative?

"The pavilion itself will welcome the general public and also have what Winslow terms “absolutely first rate” VIP facilities for business-to-business and business-to-government interactions, a critical function at world expos."

I think that means foot messages and bubble baths...

Apr 26, 10 11:04 am
Bob Jacobson

I love the Danish Pavilion by my friend Bjarke Ingels, founder and CEO of BIG Architecture in Copenhagen. It has two intertwined spirals. You can borrow one of 1,000 bikes brought over from Copenhagen to ride up and down the spirals. At their bottom is a pool of water imported from Copenhagen Harbor, "clean enough to swim in." And in the middle of the pool is the statue of "Den Lille Half-frue" on its rocky perch, the Little Mermaid of Hans Christian Andersen fame, brought all the way from Copenhagen. This is Danish Design at its very best.

Apr 26, 10 4:21 pm
Distant Unicorn

Could we talk about the urban-planning foliage? I am quite curious.

Apr 26, 10 4:37 pm
Cherith Cutestory

"the metal cladding has to go. i'm thinking stucco would actually look amazing...something like a barragan or legoretta"

um, yuck. Maybe because I live in the land of "everyone thinks they are legoretta" and slaps 4 mix-matched colors of stucco on their already ugly buildings and thinks it's Arch. Record material.

I'd hate to think the best the US can export is stucco, which in reality is fake adobe. Might as well throw on some of those prefab molded EIFS motif things, some brick veneer and round it out with some VCT tile. Hot!

Apr 26, 10 4:52 pm
Bob Jacobson

A new feature, and one that could make up for some of the US Pavilion's prefab, static presentation, will be a four-nation performance and celebration plaza in the center of four of the Americas section pavilions: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and the US. No drawings are yet available.

The brainchild of US Commissioner General Jose Villarreal -- appointed to oversee the Expo project way after the selection and design faux pas had already been committed and most of the $65 million spent -- this lively addition will use vacant space around the theater building and the other pavilions to create a common space featuring events and experiences more memorable than inside the US Pavilion -- and a lot more crowd-manageable. Ironically, that's also how US shopping malls try to make themselves more humane.

As Jose put it, "You do what you can." He's a good man in a tough position.

Apr 26, 10 5:23 pm


I'm curious. Are you 'allowed' to show what you produced for the US Pavilion?


Apr 26, 10 5:33 pm

"...our US Pavilion would have blown your mind."

Arturius, please post descriptions and/or images of your US Pavilion. I would love to see what the alternative would have been.

Apr 26, 10 5:37 pm
Bob Jacobson

The fact is, BH&L Group's alternative US Pavilion might not have looked like a conventional pavilion at all. In its final evolution, its central feature was a series of NASA-like situation rooms -- 360º, with sound -- employing digital media to support immersive environments illustrative of urban sustainability and efforts around the world to create them.

Some of these would protrude from a surrounding, shaded ground-level urban park where people could seek relief from Shanghai's notorious midsummer heat. (If you read Ursula LeGuin's Always Coming Home, think of "The City," the autonomous digital computer network with interfaces available to tribal shamans.)

These media presentations were to be fed in real-time from the US Pavilion's Online Pavilion companion, an Internet-accesible virtual world many times "larger" than the physical pavilion able to support videos, acoustics, graphics, and 3D models in greater numbers than could be fit into a physical pavilion. While 70 million were expected to visit the Expo in person, more than 500 million users around the world were expected to tune in for at least part of the Expo experience. This was an audience of equal importance to the visiting Chinese. (Most Chinese, too, would experience the Expo and the US Pavilion in this fashion.)

Most of the displays would simulate aspects of "Earth©" a conceptual descendant of Google Earth and the CIA's complete database described in Neal Stephenson's novel, Snow Crash. Earth© was the universal data portal to real-time knowledge about the Earth's condition, and natural and human events past, present, and future.

Much of the activity inside the pavilion would be taking place via invisible, wireless communications -- though of course, we could and would use various sensorial means to express these connections and flows.

Here are two renderings of a possible shell-building concept volunteered by China-based architect Jeremy Todd Metz in 2009:

BH&L Group Facebook Page Album, US Pavilion Artist Conception and Floorplans

The structure, powered in part by solar and wind energy, was designed for easy breakdown, removal, and recycling.

Other concepts included five caissons sunk in the ground, one large central caisson and four smaller ones connected by light-welled tunnels -- simulating what a future urban habitation might be like in a climate-challenged environment -- each with its own displays and mock living and enterainment quarters (where food would be served and programs played out). Of course, this could have presented a logistical nightmare if the expected 50,000 people arrived.

A simpler concept was an undulating surface around a large space (with three floors inside for static displays, food, and the required VIP area) whose interior was constantly fluxing and changing with the audience's desires -- what was shown, what displays became evident and which receded, etc. -- based on signals from their wireless devices.

Since even in the best circumstances a pavilion of any type could only accommodate half of the 50,000 visitors expected each day, the exterior of this simple construction would be clad in a new (patent-pending) bright-light-emitting material that would give each person on the outside a show relevant to what was occurring on the inside. Each show could be customized since the structure of the material could display a different presentation based on the viewer's position on the periphery and his or her effective height. Or presentaitons could be beamed directly to visitors mobile devices, thereby eliminating the need to physically enter the building.

Besides the program inside and outside the US Pavilion -- part real-time digital presentations, part human beings doing things -- the Expo in 2009 would have been promoted and discussed at town halls organized geographically and by professional or personal interest around the nation. Typically, this has occurred in ad hoc fashion; we recruited 45 distinguished Advisors in the field of China-US Relations, Urbanology and Sustainability, and New Technology to organize events in their respective domains.

None of this could be done in one year's time, of course, which is why we wanted to promptly get started in 2008. That, however, is when politics took over.

Apr 26, 10 7:08 pm

forget the us pavilion. who had high hopes for it anyway?

check out the spanish pavilion!:

Apr 26, 10 8:24 pm
go do it

these are the official standings

1st place----------------------------------australia
2nd place----------------------------------swiss sans monorail
3rd place----------------------------------polish

the very worst------------------------------ finnish

the USA's is awful. it looks like any number of buildings you can see from the freeway.

take off the USA letters and put up IBM and nobody would even question it.

Apr 26, 10 9:30 pm

So North Korea's is better than the Finn's? Hard to believe.

Apr 26, 10 9:54 pm
go do it

"So North Korea's is better than the Finn's? Hard to believe."


if you meant the South Korean Pavilion then yes the finnish is worse.

the jury was back and forth but in the end the Fins won, so to speak, by a nose.

anyway the reslults are OFFICIAL.

Apr 27, 10 12:31 am

Wheres the link?

Curious to see the middle.

I thought the North Korean and Iranian pavilions were next to each other. Or did I fall for some whimsy?

Apr 27, 10 12:56 am
Bob Jacobson

It's not too soon to promote the Yeosu 2012 and Milan 2915 World Expos. Nations getting ready for those significant events (other than the US) are already fashioning public procedures for pavilion producers. Time to get involved!

Apr 27, 10 2:22 am
Bob Jacobson

Pardon my error. The link is right, but the label was wrong! "Milan 2015" World Expo!

Apr 27, 10 2:24 am

I think the two most conceptually interesting are Denmark and the Netherlands (surprise.)

Here's the Netherlands', which looks like a circus freakshow regurgitation. And yet somehow I like it:


And here is the Danish, by the ubiquitous :

also awesome, but in a subtler way!

Apr 27, 10 8:11 pm


the Danish pavilion

Apr 27, 10 8:14 pm

come on, they juz all looks like buildings except the seed cathedral...

its an expo about the future, not architectural aesthetic discussions!

Surprise me pleassssseeee!

Apr 27, 10 8:28 pm
Cherith Cutestory

The Netherlands pavilion looks like something I would have made with all of my legos as a kid.

Apr 27, 10 8:37 pm
Bob Jacobson

It's an Expo about better living in better cities. A pavilion that actually addressed that theme would be surprising and interesting on its face. Are there any, other than the Urban Innovation Forum set up by the hosts for 50 cities (without pavilions, only good plans)? That's the bottom line.

Apr 27, 10 8:40 pm

Isn't it exceedingly rare to find a piece of architecture that actually and in meaningful ways improves our lives?

What's the last building that did?

Apr 27, 10 9:02 pm
go do it

"Isn't it exceedingly rare to find a piece of architecture that actually and in meaningful ways improves our lives?

What's the last building that did?"
well for me it was my personnal house i built 3 yrs ago

architecture like art moves people in different ways. like a beatles song may mean something different to me than you.

but the peice of architecture that really moved me and made me think was Philip Johnson's Glass House. IF you would live in that house to me it would be like skinny dipping. complete freedom and no where to hide and maybe force some introspective examination

Apr 27, 10 10:07 pm

But the Glass House actually perfectly sums up the disconnect between architecture and culture for me.

People don't want to live perfectly exposed all the time. People actually like privacy, they like gradients of privacy and exposure. Here's the paradox: Architecture with a capital A perpetually gives people Glass Houses, when what they really want is a bungalow with a private back yard.

How do architects resolve the disconnect between how culture functions and what architecture makes?

How many of us really want to live in glass houses? I love them as architecture, but do I love them as a user? It's a question that constantly comes up for me in my own practice.

Apr 27, 10 10:49 pm
go do it

you made my point more eloquently i think
i would not want to live in a glass house either but as a peice of architecture (with a capital A) i don't think that you can get more pure.
and maybe that is the beauty of the Johnson house, it is pure Arcitecture.

"How do architects resolve the disconnect between how culture functions and what architecture makes?"

well that is the rub isn't it. people have to be able to live IN the architecture.

one of my favorite antidotes is that i saw an interview of a couple that had Bart Prince design them a house in Santa Fe here in N.M. but he didn't put any closets on the first floor so they coverted some round columns that seperated some windows with the BIG view into 4 or 5 very small closets in order to have some storage.

what i took away from that is that if you are going to design a work of art for people to live in you can't forget the closets!

in other words it has to be livable

Apr 27, 10 11:40 pm
Bob Jacobson

Architecture exists among, within, and around other architecture. I find it interesting that architects, who are supposedly masters of space and its phenomena, so often are stuck talking about objects. In a "Better City, Better Life" context, architecture is definitely part of the fabric but not the fabric.

This entire conversation has been about physical artifacts that confine space but are otherwise disconnected from one another and in the Expo setting, the earthly and human environments. That conversation takes you just so far, with the result that everyone's a critic of architectural objects but no one has the answers to why things turn out as they do -- that is, social and environmental strategies.

Architects aren't the only ones so inhibited, but it is one reason that as the world turns, they are being relegated into support roles for developers and contractors, no longer setting the agendas for urban design. In fact, even the environmental designers who used to kowtow to architects have found a sweet spot in the public's heart and less seldom act as batboys to architects.

Now you have a chance with an event such as the Shanghai Expo to speak to larger issues affecting architecture and you argue about which pavilion is more clever or more lovely -- pavilions that are intentionally caricatures of national themes and types. It's not the society in which architects work that's to blame for architecture's declining repute. You know where I'm going with this. I'll leave it unsaid, because once said, it is so terminal.

Apr 28, 10 12:00 am
go do it

From the Expo's site


"The theme of Expo 2010 is "Better City, Better Life," representing the common wish of the whole humankind for a better living in future urban environments. This theme represents a central concern of the international community for future policy making, urban strategies and sustainable development."

I have no doubt that inside the pavillions there are some great ideas and contacts being made and the whole idea of the Expo is very commendable. For the future of cities in a very fluid geo-political and economical world enviroment if you think to hard about it can be scary.

Just to bring this conversation back to it's primal roots, i just thought that these kind of Expo shindigs was a chance to show off your skills as a
bad-ass Architect.

Apr 28, 10 1:42 am
Bob Jacobson

...And a hammer keeps looking for a nail.

It's not a requirement to be more than "a bad-ass architect" if, in fact, you are a truly bad-ass architect. (Otherwise, your inspiration is just aspiration.)

It's a good question as to whether the best architects are architects only, concentrating on their practice; or architects-plus, in the world.

The Expo won't answer that question, however. It's not really in the world, either. The Chinese missed the opportunity, too.

Apr 28, 10 2:23 am

So who are these architects-plus, who engage with the world in their work and in their methodology?

I teach at a university. Though we're always talking about educating young architects to be thoughtful makers of space and interpreters of culture, the prizes and accolades mostly go to the students who make pretty things, pretty drawings. We're set up from an early age as architects to think in terms of objects.

It would be interesting to see an architecture program that's fundamentally rethought--about engagement with the world, sociological practice, and design all in one.

Apr 28, 10 8:13 am
go do it

A person dosen't run into opportunities like a world Expo everyday and it is a chance to impress on a world stage.

At this time a school should be those things but the driving force behind all things buisness, especially MONEY is to conservative.
It is hard to get people to gamble sometimes.

Apr 28, 10 11:24 am

the spanish one comes with a giant creepy baby.

Apr 28, 10 11:38 pm

I looked at the link thinking "there is no way the US Pavillion is the worst"... ummmmmmmmmm who the fuck designed that enormous piece of shit... I think the Saudi Arabian one is quite possibly worse though...

i think it probably comes down to Americans not giving a shit about China or what is going on in China... which I agree with... China is a shithole and the only thing that could make it look any better is a nuclear bomb... or maybe the British Pavillion. Why give those commies the satisfaction of some kickass American architecture.

(disclaimer: I currently live in the shithole know as china... and I am having an "I fucking hate this shithole week") I seriously almost killed the McDonalds delivery guy this afternoon because he didn't bring any ketcup and OF COURSE fucked up my entire order... stupid fucking chinese! But I think I am just REALLy sick of it here...

Apr 30, 10 6:53 am

I think the Americans should have just taken a big dump in the middle of the pavillion site...oh wait they did! Take that China YOU SUCK!!!

Apr 30, 10 6:55 am

"Unlike many pavilions destined for demolition come October, the U.S. pavilion is likely to be reassembled elsewhere after the event, he said." USA Today

Why would we do that? Can we just purchase the UK pavilion or something....

Apr 30, 10 7:09 am
Bob Jacobson

Here's a reference page regarding the US Pavilion's history and its demise.

May 1, 10 2:15 am
go do it

Why did the leadership of the US Consulate Shanghai continue to lend strong support to the Winslow-Eliasoph team despite the fact that there were lower-cost and better alternatives being developed in the US and Shanghai?

Did long-standing relationships between Consular staff and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Ira Kasoff, husband to Ellen Eliasoph, play any role in the decision-making?

from Arturius's link
same old crap
it is who you know

May 1, 10 12:36 pm
Bob Jacobson

Read this garbage to experience the depths of the mendacity, revealed in a PR release by Amway, a corporate sponsor. You can also see some of the other sponsors listed.

May 1, 10 1:45 pm

"stupid fucking chinese! But I think I am just REALLy sick of it here..."
Get used to it kid. Your days as an american (or brit, since you are most certainly one of these) dominator are over.
Come back to the US and design Mc Mansions. Oh wait, even that's not happening in the US anymore.

May 2, 10 2:46 pm
Bob Jacobson

Today on NPR Weekend Sunday Edition, correspondent Louisa Kim reports from the Shanghai Expo, "U.S. Underdressed as Nations Sparkle at World's Fair" (3 min.).

Lisa gets the architectural and programming story right -- the US Pavilion "reminds visitors of a used car lot" -- but leaves the State Department wiggle room by stating that fundraising was constrained by "complex rules," which wasn't the case. State just wanted a privatized US Pavilion and got it, pimples and all.

It didn't help, however, that Ruder Finn, the organizers' (very expensive) PR firm has been hyping the US Pavilion to the stars in China, for consumption by US and Chinese politicians. Chinese visitors now have high expectations. Waiting in line 2-1/2 hours to visit the US Pavilion at the expense of seeing many others, and being disappointed, is resulting in severe demerits for the US circus ringmasters.

May 2, 10 6:25 pm

Wow, the U.S. pavilion is quite bad. Also why does every other country have Chinese characters on theirs and the USA doesn't?

I like Canada's. I love Britain's.

May 2, 10 8:35 pm
Bob Jacobson

"We're Americans! We speak English! Learn it or leave!"

There's a mistaken attitude permeating our US Pavilion initiative, perhaps due to the intense involvement of Shanghai Consul General Bea Camp and her Public Affairs Officer Tom Cooney -- now Deputy Commissioner General for the US -- that the US Pavilion is somehow a component of the Consulate and therefore sovereign American space.

Also, with the exception of one or two members, the Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., board is woefully short on members whose jobs require them to go out and mingle with the Chinese hoi poloi. All these folks do is talk to business people (mostly American) and occasionally, government officials.

I don't claim to be an expert on everyday China or Shanghai, never having been, but the people I surround myself whenever China's involved are.

One thing I will note, however: the Chinese and American people are alike in at least one way, and that's pride in their respective cultures. If a Chinese office, factory, or Expo building in this country had the audacity to only name itself in Mandarin on the wall, there'd be (a) bafflement, (b) anger, and (c) a demand that an Anglicized name at least accompany the Chinese one. We're fortunate that the Chinese so far haven't made a big deal about it, perhaps because so many Shanghainese speak English or aspire to.

Or are the Chinese visitors publicly polite and privately rankled?

May 2, 10 8:50 pm

Bob Jacobson's review of the US pavilion is well worth reading:

He concludes:
"In the end, the US Pavilion offers no vision of the future. Like so many of the busted malls at home that it so closely resembles, the US Pavilion is fragmentary and momentary, not the beacon of hope the Expo hosts expected or that the American people deserve.... How did things come to this sorry pass?"

He discusses the corrupt, anti-democratic way in which the pavilion was conceived, planned, funded and executed... all in all, this place sounds like a fitting monument to the debased, corrupt mediocrity to which our leaders aspire.

May 7, 10 7:54 pm
Bob Jacobson

Give praise where praise is due: the USA Pavilion now sports the Mandarin characters for USA.

See the illustration accompanying the article, "The USA Pavilion is a Disgrace," by John Mahony, Popular Science, May 6, 2010.

May 7, 10 8:51 pm

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