Architecture Building Daewon Park Observation Tower

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Shanghai(d) Expo 2010: 15 Cutting-Edge Architectural Designs

(Images via: Shanghai Cultural China,, Arch Daily)

When you’re awarded the highly coveted position of official host city to the world’s latest, greatest and inarguably grandest exhibition fair, you better be prepared to spend some major dinero (or in this case, Yuan) to put on the glitz. At a personal expense of $4.2 billion dollars, China is definitely pulling out the stops for the anticipated 70 million visitors of their upcoming Shanghai World Expo, taking place in the Pudong District along the bank of the Huangpu River from May 1 to October 31, 2010. Their developing nation status should be easily forgotten now that they’re embracing a 21st century cultural and economic sensibility as reflected in their Expo theme “Better City – Better Life”. It will be hard to outshine China’s ambitious pavilion plans, but with 42 additional countries setting up shop for the duration of the event and enormous budgets being earmarked for their own respective architectural spectacles, the proof’s in the pudding. Behold the most eye-catching, heart-stopping, structurally visionary creations that visitors will be treated to when they plunk down their $24 admission fee.

Australia’s Pavilion

(Images via: Shanghai Cultural China, Chenzen)

Inspired by the colossal and entirely sacred Ayers Rock landmark that juts out of the Northern Territory of Australia, their color-changing “Uluru” pavilion emulates the earthy ochre-red appearance of its namesake due to the gradually-oxidizing steel façade. At an expense of $76 million, the land down under asks its pavilion guests to discover the real Australia through a combination of “ImagiNation” cultural exhibits, interactive displays, artistic representations of their history and…naturally, the indigenous tastes of their distinctive cuisine.

Brazil’s Pavilion

(Images via: Shanghai Cultural China, Expo 2010, Arch Daily)

Said to be among the largest of all the pavilion structures this year, Brazil’s rectangular design – created by Architect Fernando Brandão — pays homage to Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Game National Stadium (a.k.a the “Bird’s Nest”). Its “Pulsing Cities” theme acknowledges how Brazil continues to pursue sustainable development while still balancing the livelihood of its residents. The unusual looking design — composed of a metallic framework with thousands upon thousands of recycled wooden pieces interlocking within a mesh exterior — is taken one step further with the addition of a liberal coat of retina-searing green paint. It offers a complementary backdrop to their goal of educating the public about the country’s strategic management of their precious natural resources and dedication to using green energy alternatives.

Denmark’s Pavilion

(Images via: World Expo Blog, Nuts Bike, Dezeen)

One of the most notable features of Denmark, which was brought to light during the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, is its bicycle friendly infrastructure – an integral design component in their roof top pavilion. Incorporating 1500 eco-friendly two wheelers for visitors to take advantage of, the Danish Pavilion revolves around the notion that its traditional fairy tales can be appreciated while attendees put their pedals to the metal so to speak. The spiral knot-tied architecture – really just a looping bicycle and pedestrian-friendly ramp — contains a pond at its core as well as the original “Little Mermaid” statue from Copenhagen Harbor.

France’s Pavilion

(Images via: World Expo Blog, China Briefing, Expo 2010)

With a “Sensual City” design scheme, the tres cultural birthplace of impossibly thin supermodel women who perpetually indulge in croissants, gallons of wine and decadent truffles is shelling out $74.4 million to bankroll their water-surrounded, seemingly floating 6,000 square foot structure. Purportedly a “shining example of energy efficiency and recycling techniques,” the airy box-woven design – which contains lush French-style gardens within – is (unlike its brethren) constructed for long term permanence and will be given to China as a gift after the Expo has concluded. Those who appreciate artistic masterpieces will be able to get their fix when France displays works from such masters as Rodin, Millet and Van Gogh, all under its lush, botanical ensconced pavilion roof.

Germany’s Pavilion

(Images via: China, World Expo Blog, Shanghai Government, Xinhuanet

Architect Lennart Wiechell is the brainchild behind Germany’s $67 million 6,000 square foot pavilion, which reflects the theme of balance amid cultural identity, globalization, modernization and preservation. With four separate architectural components, the unit as whole appears to be precariously positioned, and yet that’s the whole point of the design – to convey a sense of intrinsic support when all the features work together as a unit. The piece de resistance, located in the “source of power” exhibition hall, is a 3 meter wide, 1.2 ton, noise and movement activated revolving metal sphere studded with 400,000 LED lights.

Great Britain’s Pavilion

(Images via:, Yatzer)

Reflecting the relationship between the built environment and what exists untouched in Mother Nature, the outrageously audacious 20-meter-high porcupine-like Seed Cathedral consists of 60,000 narrow 7 meter long translucent fiber optic acrylic rods, each tip embedded with varying seeds that are representative of the ensured future and longevity of mankind. Designed by the innovative, forward-thinking and internationally acclaimed team of Heatherwick Studio, the product of their efforts has to be the most extraordinarily risky yet phenomenally successful example of modern art on an architectural level. Radiating ambient light during the day and a self-illuminating structural glow once the sun goes down, the design even responds to breeze patterns by undulating accordingly, providing a multi-sensory event for all to witness.

Italy’s Pavilion

(Images via: Shanghai Cultural China, World Expo Blog)

Have you ever seen a shimmering vision in concrete? Italy’s modular pavilion slabs, embedded with optical glass fibers, yield a 3,600-square-meter structure that appears to be translucent in nature and ever-changing as the sun progresses through the sky. Consisting of 20 unique shapes representative of the county’s distinctive geographical regions and bound together by intersecting lines (or “pick up sticks”), the most interesting thing about this design is that it will be recycled and reconfigured simply by removing the anchoring pieces.

The Netherlands’ Pavilion

(Images via: PR Log,, Shanghai Scrap)

Designer John Kormeling’s Dutch Pavilion, entitled “Joy Street”, is a literal figure-eight-shaped assemblage of 26 mismatched yet oddly harmonious structures that come together in cartoonishly cheerful nature. Seemingly plucked straight from the pages of a classic Seussian tale, the artist did his best to embody the classic traditional architectural styles emblematic of his country while also paying close attention to sustainable and eco-responsible factors. Honoring Chinese traditions of luck and good fortune, the eight shaped appearance is just as strategic a design decision as the exterior paint color of decisive, statement-making red (which is in the process of being slathered on).

Poland’s Pavilion

(Images via: PR Log, Expo 2010 China)

The site of three ecologically treasured circumboreal regions, Poland is known for many unique national treasures — including Maria Curie, distinctive baroque architecture, delectable pierogi — and now they can add their absolutely stunning folk-art inspired 3,000 square meter pavilion to the list. Reflecting the look of traditional hand cut, intricately patterned paper, the exterior of the entirely original architectural masterpiece is composed mainly of laser-cut plywood with polycarbonate, glass, hydro and/or UV resistant panel wall accents which also serve as movie screens upon which Polish cultural films will be shown. It is worth noting that the design team of Wojciech Kakowski, Natalia Paszkowska and Marcin Mostafa earned top honors in the design category of the 2010 EXPO’s architectural pavilion offerings for their eye-catching concept.

Russia’s Pavilion

(Images via: Expo 2010, Shanghai Scrap)

Yet another imaginative design seemingly torn from the pages of a treasured story book, the inspiration for the Russian pavilion actually stems from the historical patterns found on women’s clothing and the desire to present a magical world as seen through the eyes of a child. When you look past the pleasing textural contradictions, the 6,000 square meter design encompasses one 15 meter tall main structure linked to 12 irregularly shaped red, white and gold 20 meter tall towers (which represent the full calendar year).

Saudi Arabia’s Pavilion

(Images via: E China Cities, Expo 2010, Shanghai Daily)

Saudi Arabia’s surreal $146 million pavilion desert scape – believed to be the most expensive among the 2010 World Expo offerings — is distinctive not only for its natural contrasts but particularly for the top deck of its suspended “moon boat” shaped structure. Boasting water features as well as 150 rooftop date palms, it has the extra-added bonus of a 1,600 square-meter cinema screen (about a quarter the size of a soccer pitch), reportedly the largest one on earth.

Spain’s Pavilion

(Images via:, Design World, World Expo Blog)

With its steel inner workings and 8,524 multi-colored, waterproofed, woven wicker exterior tiles, Spain’s $2.6 million 8,500 square meter structure is unlike anything else that will be on display at the 2010 World Expo. One of the visual benefits of using rattan covered exterior panels is that an ethereal light streaming effect is generated which also helps to ensure that the inner structure maintains a comfortably consistent temperature. Furthermore, if you look closely at the beige brown and black exterior, you can identify Chinese characters that are representative of natural elements such as the moon and the sun.

Switzerland’s Pavilion

(Images via: Arch Daily, Expo 2010, EcoFriend, World Expo Blog)

Switzerland’s inspiringly sustainable yin and yang concept, created by Buchner Brundler Architects, is immediately striking due to its exterior biodegradable soybean fiber curtain which breaks down within two weeks after being covered with soil. Incorporating dye-sensitized electricity-generating solar cells, the curtain conveys a forest like appearance that appears to illuminate from within long after the sun has set. The 4,000 square meter pavilion, which cost $18.52 million to execute, even has a rooftop cable car system which leads visitors to a flowering meadow.

Turkey’s Pavilion

(Images via: Shanghai Scrap, Expo 2010 China, Arch Daily)

Daring to make its competition quiver with intimidation and a severe inferiority complex, the fantastically dramatic 2,000 square foot Turkey pavilion embraces its cultural roots by recreating design elements found in Neolithic “Catalhoyuk” settlements and adhering to a “Cradle of Civilization” theme. Never has a red and beige tinted box looked so good with its built-in animal sculpture, artistic open air cutouts and maze like interior swirl.

The United Arab Emirates’ Pavilion

(Images via: Cultural China, Vyonyx,Expo 2010 China, Arch Daily)

Always inclined to embrace a ‘bigger is better’ philosophy, the UAE’s 6,000 square foot “Sand Dune” pavilion seems to defy the laws of architectural physics with its somewhat undulating appearance which mimics what might happen if a gust of wind were to lift up a patch of desert sand and help it to take flight. In actuality, the Empty Quarter sand dunes are its fitting artistic inspiration. Interestingly, the north side of the structure allows sunlight to stream in while the south side is impervious so that solar heating is minimized. Even more remarkable is the fact that the country, long criticized for its irresponsible excess and lack of eco-responsibility, is surprisingly breaking down the entire pavilion at the event’s conclusion and reassembling somewhere in the UAE.

New Luxury Mega-Yacht: 10,000 Sf. Floating Super-Mansion

Less like a leisure craft and more like a 10,000 square-foot, three-level villa on the water, this incredible (and expensive) floating home can hardly be called a houseboat. After all, it is the opposite of the typical built-to-the-borders model of immobile houseboat – and looks like anything but a converted ship of the sea.

Think it, perhaps, like a personal cruise ship – private parties only. At over 175 feet long and 100 feet wide there is room for a dozen guests and just as many crew members to run this water-riding resort. The plan calls for over ten thousand square feet of usable space, all made to move smooth and fast across the surface of a lake, sea or open ocean. A super-silent, high-efficiency motor is great, but there will be no sailing on this ship unfortunately.

Constructed from water-resistant leather and wood, this vessel is built to open up and truly travel – but still features the interior design and high-end amenities of a three-story luxury home, from lounges and dining rooms to libraries and on-board spas. Even if you could not afford to buy this, imagine even chartering one for the weekend – talk about the ultimate getaway, you could escape to anywhere and still live it up in style!

The broad and low-lying footprint of the boat provides for maximum land-like stability even on the high seas, both for safety and comfort reasons. This ship – dubbed the WHY (but perhaps better would be: why not?) – is a joint design venture for sale from yacht-maker Wally and French luxury brand Hermès, truly a stunning blend of nautical engineering and high style.

Glowing Green Cash: Designer Glow-in-the-Dark Currency

Ever fumble through your purse or wallet in a dark bar or mood-lit restaurant, looking for the right bills with which to pay? Or at the least: do you find yourself flipping through to find the right denomination? Jaesik Heo, Hojoon Lim & Dahaeng Lim have come up with a simple, cheap and easy solution that lets you grab the correct bill with ease and spot errant cash before it slides down between your sofa cushions.

Green is the classic color of American money, but it is also the default for glow-in-the-dark designs. It was only a matter of time before somehow had this ingenious idea to fuse the two concepts into one creative and functional alternative to standard currencies – with slightly varied hues to allow people easy identification between denominations.

There are already so many intensive design elements in the cash we carry delay, from highly specialized paper and inks to embedded metal strips, holograms and other optical illusions – adding a little glowing strip to the sides should not be too much trouble, right? The problem with printing these from a governmental perspective is probably security-related: after all, you could spot these at quite some distance, which might prove dangerous in some circumstances (such as someone walking down the street late at night with a bill or two tucked in their pocket).

Time to Watch: Wireless OLED Color-Changing Wall Clock

Black, then white, then back to black again, this large light-sensitive wall clock shifts colors as day turns to dusk then dawn again- the Organic Light-Emitting Diodes display dark-colored numerals during daylight hours and light numbers into the night. Visually, it is almost like a vertical-hung, room-illuminating, wall-surfacel version of the vintage LED wrist watch.

Each over-sized digital number is independently attached to a surface (and completely wire-free) so you can place and space them as you wish on any interior wall, a contemporary decorative touch that also tells time. Softly-rounded rectangular corners make these child-friendly and relatively easy to install as well – that is, once these prototypes from Kibardin Design find a manufacturer and go on sale for real.

The aesthetic of the idea are recognizably patterned after the familiar giant-sized, billboard style numerals we are used to seeing on everything from small nightstand alarm clocks to huge sports scoring boards. It might not keep time at the atomic level, but its energy-efficient power system should last a long time – and cheap materials will hopefully keep the price down as well when the time comes you can buy one. Touch-sensitive panels let you change the time without moving them. More durable than wood or glass and lighter than metal, the unique hybrid polycarbonate surface is sustainable as well as durable by design.

Noteworthy Design: 15 Marvelous Music Halls & Opera Houses

Already aural masterpieces, the world’s top opera houses and concert halls hardly need to be concerned with appearances – but when you’re reaching for perfection in performance, some symphonic visual stimuli can only add to the experience. From the fluid, wave-inspired silhouette of Santiago Calatrava’s Tenerife Concert Hall in Spain to the mysterious shimmering island effect of the National Grand Theater of China, these auditoriums are just as magnificent as the music made within.

Zenith Music Hall in Stasbourg, France

(images via: dezeen)

Like a gigantic paper lantern, the Zenith Music Hall in Strasbourg, France features a highly unusual façade of accordion-like folds of fabric on a steel frame which, when lit from within, gives off a warm glow. This membrane doesn’t just provide spectacular lighting effects, but plays a role in the all-important acoustics of the hall.

Icelandic Opera House

(images via: architecture list)

The new Icelandic Opera House will have a somewhat magical and otherworldly feel with its shimmering crystalline upper story, appropriate for its setting in an area that is said to be inhabited by elves. The glass cube, which will hold the opera’s large concert hall, will be filled with LED lights to change the façade’s appearance with the flick of a switch. Designed by Arkitema and the Icelandic architectural practice Arkthing, who won an international competition to helm the project.

Oslo Opera House

(images via: arcspace)

Ultramodern and geometric, the Oslo Opera House is a blend of three elements – the “Wave Wall”, the “Factory” and the “Carpet”. The Wave Wall is a nod to Oslo’s identity as a global harbor city, delineating the place where land and water meet. The Factory houses production facilities, while the Carpet forms a grand sloping horizontal surface that gives the structure a feel of accessibility.

Dubai Opera House by Zaha Hadid

(images via: dezeen)

Just as Dubai’s landscape is known for its gently curving sand dunes and ocean waves, one of its centerpieces – the Dubai Opera House – will take on a similarly fluid shape with the emirate’s signature futuristic spin. Designed by Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher, the development will be a new cultural center in the Seven Pearls district.

National Museum of Qatar

(images via: inhabitat)

Another desert-inspired opera house in nearby Qatar takes its cues from Bedouin culture and is designed specifically with cool refuge from the hot sun in mind. Interlinked discs act as massive sun shades while steel and concrete will provide the thermal mass needed to hang on to chilled night air. The complex will seek LEED silver certification.

Valencia Opera House

(image via: world architecture news)

Famed architect Santiago Calatrava certainly grabbed the world’s attention with the design of the Valencia Opera House, a sweeping concrete and steel structure resembling a helmet that also calls to mind the movement of birds – a common theme in Calatrava’s work. Just as much an urban landmark as a functioning opera hall, the building is in the words of the architect himself his “most complete” work yet.

Palacio de Congresos, Lazarote

(images via: henning larsen architects)

What is simply an interesting textured motif on the exterior of Lazarote, Spain’s Palacio de Congresos by day transforms to a volcano-inspired lava look when illuminated after dark. Designed by Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with the local architect Carlos Morales, the Palacio de Congresos gives visitors magnificent views of the city, the mountain skyline, the sky and the ocean all from the foyer.

National Grand Theater of China

(images via: archdaily)

Maximizing the reflective qualities of both its glass and titanium exterior and the surface of the lake it sits on, China’s National Grand Theater resembles nothing so much as a gigantic metallic egg. Housing three performance auditoriums, the theater boasts an underground entrance as its only means of access, preserving a mysterious, island-like effect.

Chamber Music Hall by Zaha Hadid

(images via: design boom)

The common use of seashell imagery in opera and concert hall architecture is no accident – consider how closely a spiraling shell can resemble the parts of a human inner ear. Though not a freestanding structure itself but a performance hall within the Manchester Art Gallery, Zaha Hadid’s Chamber Music Hall uses a swirling cocoon of fabric to achieve this visual effect and enhance acoustics.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

(images via: wikimedia commons)

It may bear the name of Mickey’s creator, but the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles certainly doesn’t look like anything you’d stumble upon in a theme park. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the curving stainless steel wonder was designed to be among the most acoustically sophisticated performance halls in the world.

Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg

(images via: design boom)

With its towering asymmetric glass auditorium, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, Germany can’t help but evoke images of water and ice. Once completed, the new building makes use of an old gutted warehouse as a base and adds an upper glass structure that seems to float on air. The unusual design flouts the common auditorium layout, placing the orchestra and conductor in the center of the building. Much of the outer layer will contain a large parking garage.

Tenerife Concert Hall by Calatrava

(image via: extra noise)

Curvilinear, sculptural and sparkling white: the Tenerife Concert Hall can’t be anything other than a seaside wonder, particularly with its distinctive ‘wave’ structure. As with many of Calatrava’s other buildings, the Tenerife hall seems to be ready for flight at any moment like some bizarre alien aircraft.

Zhuhai Opera House by SPF Architects

(images via: archicentral)

Speaking of UFOs, this concept for the Zhuhai Opera House in Guangdong Province, China looks a bit out-of-this-world as well. But the design is actually based on stacked pebbles in an attempt to capture visual balance while also maintaining a sense of movement. California’s SPF Architects allow the design to stand out even more by placing it on a contrasting red sandstone plaza that juts out into the sea.

Mumuth Graz Music Theater, Austria

(images via: nikiomahe)

From the outside, the Mumuth Graz Music Theater in Graz, Austria may not look like much other than a particularly striking contrast to the surrounding old-world architecture – it’s a big box of glass. But the most fascinating part of this building is the great spiral staircase housed within, which almost seems like some living internal organ viewed through transparent skin. The staircase twists and turns and expands to accommodate interior spaces.

Sydney Opera House

(images via: wikimedia commons)

No collection of beautifully designed performance halls would be complete without the world-renowned Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sydney Opera House is one of the standout buildings of the 20th century and is made up of a series of precast concrete “shells”.