The Danish Pavilion EXPO 2010

The project was part of the world exhibition in Shanghai, in 2010. It was a collaboration between CAVI and the Center for Digital Urban Living at the Department of Information and Media Studies of Aarhus University, the architectural group, BIG, and the lighting company, Martin Professional.

Both the interior of the building, where the visitors could view the Little Mermaid, bike paths, and Danish art, and the architecture were worth seeing. Because of the double-loop structure of the building, the facade was almost three hundred meters long, and from some angles appeared as two bands, one above the other. The pavilion balanced digital art, urban design, and architecture. The steel construction featured an enormous media facade, sparkling with colors and light. This transformed the building into an architectural display that made the pavilion come alive at nightfall. An array of sensors monitored the intensity of the sunlight on the building, causing the building to adapt seamlessly to the light conditions throughout the day. Every night, during the late evening hours, a media show explored the screen-like potential of the facade by displaying dedicated content reflected the spatial qualities of the somewhat unusual architecture. With the addition of LED lighting fixtures behind each tube, the facade became a large, low-resolution display, with tube-like pixels in an elongated, curved configuration.

 

Design tools

In order to develop and test potential content for integrating such a non-standard display into a building, several custom-made design tools were developed. Each design tool addressed in its own way the different aspects of spatiality, scale, pixel form, and image formation.

Early in the process, a full-scale, wood model of a section of the facade was produced, which served as a mock-up for testing light fixtures and the quality of the individual pixels with respect to color and light intensity.

From the outset of the project, we knew that the pattern of pixels on the building would impose special challenges and limitations on the design. Therefore, we needed a tool to test the perceptual possibilities of the facade pixels, in terms of their pattern, low resolution, and the specific geometry imposed by the illuminated tubes. This led to a simple, Flash-based software application that was capable of visualizing a small section of twenty-four of the total 627 columns of holes in the facade.

In order to obtain a better idea of how the varied content would work in full scale, we ran a test, projecting content on a wall approximately four meters by twelve meters, in the backyard of our laboratory. We also developed a virtual 3D model of the pavilion, including its nearly 4000 tubes, and worked with projections of the virtual 3D model on a 1:100 scale physical model.

Using various design visualization tools, we tested and further developed a number of designs, including slow-moving smoke, silhouettes of pedestrians and cyclists, Chinese characters, black-to-white gradients moving around the building, and a shimmering, noise-like surface, creating constantly evolving patterns on the facade. Because of the complex structure of the building, we found it necessary to postpone the completion of the design until we could work on the actual building in Shanghai.

From CAVI’s perspective, EXPO Shanghai 2010 provided an opportunity to design a media facade, then examine and analyze the impact and effects of the graphics on the screen. Furthermore, CAVI sought to investigate the challenges and experiences one might encounter when working on a project of this scale. Therefore, the project contributed to the development of CAVI’s forays into media facade design and research.

The Shanghai Expo was open for six months, and more than five million people visited The Danish Pavilion.