The Finnish Pavilion inaugurated a few days ago at the Expo in Shanghai fully achieves this goal, expressing the sense of unity, corporality and solidity associated with feelings about one’s country.
The architectural form of the pavilion, which looks like a compact shell from far away, like the buildings of certain Finnish masters, is in actual fact made with a steel weight-bearing structure and cladding composed of modules of composite recyclable material, a skin of synthetic “scales” produced industrially, which can even be made transparent where necessary to create small windows and let light into the pavilion. This compositional choice does not make the shape any less imposing, inspired by the idea of recreating a world in the city, a little Finland in the chaotic Expo grounds, in which the shell solution creates an impression of a sheltered, protected space in which we are alone in silence or with the music of Sibelius. The pavilion is accessed via a low, wide portal at the base of the compact shell; a bridge leads directly to the centre of the pavilion, where there is a big inner courtyard with Finnish wood flooring and walls made of ultra-white fabric held taut to direct the eyes up towards the open sky.
Nature and specifically the local natural environment provide the inspiration for all the pavilion’s forms: the strong sunlight that creates bright light and a fluid layout to guide visitors in a path of discovery in this place, like the path navigated among the many solitary islands of the Gulf of Helsinki. The solitude of these indefinite empty white spaces contrasts with the hi-tech content the country’s businesses have brought to the pavilion: the exhibition area on three levels is an interactive path in which screens react to the presence of visitors by showing images and videos illustrating scenarios of lifestyles that will be possible in the near future thanks to the technologies now available to society.
The pavilion fascinates us right away because of its ability to capture many essential aspects of the character of the country it represents: the wide curves of its cross section are like those of the Tulip chair or the TWA terminal in New York airport designed by Eero Saarinen, while the use of white throughout the pavilion recalls Alvar Aalto’s only church in Italy, the church of Riola near Bologna, and the light reflecting Tuomiokirko cathedral on the stairs across from it.
And so the pavilion is made immediately familiar to the architects and to the citizens of Finland.
by Mara Corradi
Design: JKMM Architects(Teemu Kurkela, with Eero Kontuniemi, Marko Pulli, Edit Bajsz, Johanna Raukko, Paivi Meuronen, Tero Hirvonen, Klaus Stolt)
Location: Shanghai (China)
Local architect: SCSAD, Shanghai
Structural design: Aaro Kohonen Oy
Technical installations: Climaconsult Oy
Electrical installations: Projectus Team Oy
Acoustic design: Akukon
Exhibition design: Muotohiomo, Fantasiarakenne, Partanen & Lamusuo Partnerships
Artist: Aimo Katajamaki
Gross usable surface area: 3000 m2
Number of floors: 3 m
Start of project design: April 2008
Start of work: April 2009
Completion of work: December 2009
Outer cladding of composite recyclable material
Inner walls of fabric