The Canadian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010

September 5, 2010

Montreal-based Saia Barbarese Topouzanov Architects designed the Canadian Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China.


The Canadian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010

The will to develop cities that are at the same time inclusive, creative and sustainable is above all the quest for an ideal, an immense societal project that must be ceaselessly nourished and renewed through the efforts of the greater Canadian community nationwide. It is this large-scale and, at the same time, thoroughly human project that seemed to represent for us the fundamental element of our identity, the centre around which the architectural concept and experience of the pavilion should gravitate.

The pavilion’s architecture layers and weaves together a series of intertwined metaphors at different scales. The first represents the country, and serves as site for the second, that of the city, which in turn encompasses that of the town square.

The architectural parti distinguishes two closely related entities:

The building as a looped ribbon
The interior court as a circumscribed public square

The building

Mimicking the territorial disposition of cities described above, the long, bar (ribbon) of the building supplely coils between the slender ends of the allotted terrain’s perimeter. In this way, it supports the idea of a loop that unifies in spite of distances. It projects the image of a country that embraces that which it holds most dear: its population. The continuous path between entrance and exit suits the program of public performances, creating a platform upon which a series of events may unfold. Their starting point will be in the interior court left free at the centre of the pavilion that encompasses it.

The Interior court, public square or urban room, it is the place where urban life crystallizes and is renewed.

Symbolized by the physical form it adopts and the characteristics that emanate from it, the court evokes the true nature of city.

First, it is porous

At times resting on the ground, at others hovering, rising, lifting, and straightening, the ribbon building creates passages equivalent to roads, lanes and alleys that invite visitors to make their way into the central square. On the west side, one of the covered passages slips under the raised slopes of the structure. It straddles a pool of water of engaging coolness. On the side of America Square, the entrance, open to the sky, is manifest by a large notch in the building which is adjacent to the welcoming protection of two raised extremities offset from one another. These varied access points render the pavilion permeable to the curiosity of the visitor who is drawn towards this place, through a glimpse, intriguing by its atmosphere and activities.

Second, it is inclusive

The walls that circumscribe the square define its nature. These vertical surfaces, at times covered with greenery, at times with a reflective material, maintain the sense of a protective, enveloping enclosure as they palpably extend the space towards other possible places, like getaways to the sky or boundless landscapes of a vast country. In addition, these walls frame the court and hold the power to draw attention toward the nerve-centre which they create. This place, like a town square, depicts city living, and mirrors this aspect by favouring encounters, exchanges, and interactive participation. Creativity can be released to provoke a spontaneous event in an artistic and fun manner.


A first shell

The shell constitutes the interior face of the building. Minimal in its construction, without decoration, it lays low and holds only a functional, supportive role to the spectacles that it houses, those that constitute its vibrant heart.

A second envelope

Distinct from the first, it covers the latter with a space between the two. This double wall, itself an insulating coat, reduces the energy expenditures for air conditioning.

Exterior peripheral wall

Multiple facets placed randomly sculpt the facades like crystals under the light of atmospheric, luminescent phenomena. It uses a series of flat-surfaced fans striated only by fine grooves. Wood, the Canadian material of preference – natural, renewable and recoverable – offers an infinite variety of effects depending on the hour of the day or the quality of light.


Visit the website of Saia Barbarese Topouzanov Architects – here.

Photography by Patrick Alleyn