CIM: You are realising the German pavilion for EXPO 2020 in Dubai. Are there advantages to working with a temporary structure? Andreas Horbelt: Temporary buildings turn a place and time into something special, something extraordinary, because they exist only for a limited period. They are like a laboratory for the testing of new ideas. Large events, such as an EXPO, bind visitors together through their shared interest. The temporary spatial concept is embedded in the context of the content. Visitors experience a unique event, and in the case of the EXPO pavilion it is also one they participate in. Our collaboration with the architects at LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) has resulted in a building in which the architecture and exhibition complement each other perfectly.
What are the challenges of a temporary venue?
Building as sustainably as possible while, on the other hand, providing visitors with an experience that engages the emotions in order to convince them of the importance of sustainability, is something of a balancing act. We had to consider how to get the balance right between the resources used and the scenographic outcome. Due to the circumstances, we had to comply with construction law in both Germany and Dubai. It is difficult to realise a building designed to be in place for only six months.
How are you implementing sustainability?
Germany is an international leader in this respect: The concept of sustainability originated here with Germany’s energy transformation (to renewables). Scientists, business people and large parts of civil society are committed to a sustainable future. We wanted the title of the German pavilion at EXPO2020 to reflect how we see ourselves in this respect: “Campus Germany”. Campus Germany is a building that pleads for sustainability and multilateralism. It demonstrates that there are solutions to global challenges if we all work together. The presentation is designed to provide “edutainment”, since many visitors to the pavilion will not be specialists. The idea is to let them enjoy themselves and learn something at the same time. The final show is an emotional appeal to everyone to work together in the interests of greater sustainability.
What do you mean by “vertical campus”?
We agreed on the Campus Germany metaphor at an early stage and reflected on what that would mean for the exhibition. LAVA came up with the idea of the vertical campus. A campus is essentially an ensemble of buildings in a shared structure, a park. Since that could not be implemented due to both the size of the plot and the climate, the idea of stacking suggested itself: An ensemble of cubes, whose size, design and positioning reflect the functional requirements of the exhibition, structural engineering and climate control, is contained by an abstract post-parametric structure that creates unity out of multiplicity. A surprising free space in the centre of the building, very open, transparent and green, brings parkland to mind and lets visitors experience the quality of life of a European campus.
Is the building sustainable? Do you have a plan for its subsequent use and dismantling?
The architecture adheres to the German tradition of lightweight construction, which allows a large building to be created using few resources. Some parts of the building – the roof, in particular – will be reused. Sustainable materials will be used for other parts. The climate control concept developed together with Transsolar responds flexibly to the local climate: In the cooler months we will be using chimney effects for cooling, and in the warmer months the building can be closed and cooled in the conventional way. That makes it something of a hybrid solution. Experts are currently in the process of calculating whether solar panels will be sustainable if they are only used for six months. Not installing solar panels could be more sustainable.
EXPO2020 wants to leave a legacy. What is the mission of the German pavilion?
The building itself will not be the legacy. The EXPO’s organiser has effectively stipulated that it shouldn’t be. At the end of the six months of EXPO2020, we have to leave the plot empty and undeveloped. If our pavilion and its messages remain in the memory of those who visit, and if they face up to the challenges of the future with optimism and perhaps change their attitudes, that’s a legacy of which I would be very proud.
What experience do you have generally with temporary buildings?
We have implemented many temporary buildings of various sizes and levels of complexity, including Monaco’s pavilion at EXPO Milan 2015. A quite different temporary building was Europe’s largest ice house for ING-DiBa, conceived as a roadshow through six German cities. Dismantling that was no problem. If you create your own transitory shell, you have the chance to send an iconographic signal, a large image that remains in the memory.
Many thanks for the interview, Mr Horbelt.