It smells like wood. And it looks a little like a forest, made from large pieces of pine tree and bamboo. Norway’s contribution to the World EXPO in Shanghai is a construction, shaped out of 13 architechtual trees, that serves as pillars in the massive wooden pavilion “Norway. Powered by Nature.” The message is as clear as a Norwegian mountain creak: A good life has to involve nature.
“The theme of “Better City, Better Life” is a bit difficult for us, because we have no cities as large as the Chinese has. You cannot live anywhere in Norway, without being close to nature, so we decided to show the Chinese what that looks like,” says Philip Loke, the communications director of the Norway Pavillion and adds.
“I live in Oslo. And I live 15 minutes from the forest. So if you want to talk about a better life here in China, make sure there is nature in the city.”
On the floor, a little woman with a massive amount of blond curls and a charming gap in between her front teeth, is busy discussing with an older Chinese man.
“I wanted to have the lists hidden behind the wooden panel. I told you,” she says to an older Chinese man with a helmet on. He feels like the problem is minor, grinning and shaking his head.
“We can live with that, it is a small thing,” he says.
Randi Augenstein, breaks into a big smile, but her eyes remain serious.
“No. We can’t live with that, it has to be… perfect,” she says with a slight emphasis on the word perfect. The Chinese construction manager nods and walks off.
Randi Augenstein represents the architect company behind the design company, Helen & Hard, which is recognized as one of Norway’s most innovative architect teams right now. The award-winning company was chosen to design the pavilion, because of their creative solutions and their extensive use of natural materials.
“We wanted to re-introduce the use of wood as a building material to the Chinese. So we made the pavilion out of pine tree and bamboo,” she says.
“The Chinese have not used wooden houses for decades and the Chinese counterparts initially thought it was a bit odd. But pine tree is an extremely strong material, and can easily compete with concrete and steel as a building material,” explains Augenstein.
Where it is used, the pine is mixed with the lighter bamboo to symbolize the meet between East and West.
“The main theme here is sustainability. So it makes sense to use material that you can get here, like bamboo. And I like the mixture.”
Forest, Fjord, Arctic and Food
The pavilion is divided in four landscapes that all overlap. There is the city forest, where little TV-screens on slabs of wood, are constantly showing videos of different parts of Norway’s stunning nature. There is the arctic, with a self-powered water cleansing system which serves cleansed rain water to the visitors. In fact, at the entrance, cups are handed out, so when thirsty at the Norway pavilion, everyone is welcome to help themselves to a very sustainable cup of clean water. Then, of course, there is the fjord, which consists of a line of upright wooden plates and a digitalized waterfall, complete with 3D salmon swimming in the virtual pool of water at the bottom. And the salmon is also present at the last landscape: The restaurant, where competent cooks are serving fine Norwegian cuisine.
“I hope when people step in here, they feel like they are in the nature. And I hope that the Chinese can be inspired of the ideas, we present here,” says Randi Augenstein.
Shanghai is important to Oslo
Whether the wood and nature sustainability will be adapted by any Chinese in the future is an open question. To Philip Loke, it is not of utmost importance, either. The main thing is to showcase Norway, give an idea of what Norway is and to expand an already existing relationship. In 2001 Shanghai and Oslo signed a friendship agreement and thus, the two cities already have a strong connection. In that respect, giving a good impression on the EXPO can lead to further collaboration, Lote hopes. “To research and the scientific fields, where Oslo and Shanghai exchanges knowledge, this could be very important,” he says.
Norwegian research concentrates on four fields – energy, climate, environment and welfare. All of them go very well with the EXPO overall theme of “Better City, Better Life” and these are the forefront areas,” says Philip Loke.
For the common visitor, it is all about walking into a little piece of nature. Philip Loke is very well aware, that in China, it is not possible to live both in the city and in the forest at the same time, like he himself does. But the solution is simple, he says:
“If you cannot have the nature surrounding the city, bring nature into the city. That’s what Norway does here in Shanghai,” he says.
Five facts about “Norway. Powered by Nature.”
On the walls in the pavilion there are messages written by Norwegian children to the Chinese visitors. They all say something about nature.
After EXPO is over, the 13 trees are relocated to different communities as artwork
Each tree has four branches and they vary from five to 15 metres in height.
The water cleansing system, which provides water for the whole pavilion will afterwards be donated to a school in India.
The power of the pavilion comes from the sun. Outside there are a wall with solar cells that convert the sunrays into energy