Helen & Hard Architects
Shanghai World Expo
We aimed to combine the architecture with the exhibition and the infrastructure in a “forest” of 15 trees. In addition, we wanted to design the trees according to a specific use of the pavilion after Expo. To acheive this interwoven space, a close collaboration with all involved …
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
We aimed to combine the architecture with the exhibition and the infrastructure in a “forest” of 15 trees. In addition, we wanted to design the trees according to a specific use of the pavilion after Expo. To acheive this interwoven space, a close collaboration with all involved consultants was necessary from an early stage. Decisions, which would normally be made in a later stage, had to be taken early, causing challenges in a project with such heavy bureaucratic procedures, and many cooks involved. We learned from this process that the organization and management of a complex project has to be an integrated part of the design phase; you have to understand this processes and face possible consequences of your design.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
We intend, in all our projects, to expand our role from being solely the designer of space – not to leave this role, but to come back to it in a different way. In order to design complex projects, we have to include and work within other knowledge fields, synthesize them and use their space-generating potential. Even though we are working in a team with different competencies, we have to weave the different knowledge together and translate into architecture.
In this project we wanted to include not only all the inputs from engineers responsible for the infrastructure, technical devices, energy, bamboo, Glulam and membrane structures but also from the team working with the content of the exhibition and the knowledge of future users. Through new digital technology all different inputs have in several iterative steps changed the modeling of the 15 trees. We think this extended synthesizing role of the architect will increase in importance.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
Digital technology opens for us new possibilities not only for design but also for the production of architecture. In order to take advantages of these possibilities we need a conception of space, which allows the implementation of this technology. Space becomes more relational, which means it can be created by working closely with the intrinsic qualities of the material, human resources and contextual potentials. This synergistic mode reflects our notion of sustainability.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
This project has helped to further clarify our approach to architecture – that is, the continuous unfolding of space, humans and matter – which in turn has influenced our approach to teaching. Our teaching activity in several international universities has helped us to enrich and sustain our architectural work and contacts to young architects. Several of our team members are interns, students and young architects. We value their role in the office for their often fresh ideas and approaches.