An Expo grows in Xi'an

April 8, 2011

By Clare Jacobson

Plasma Studio
Drawing courtesy of Plasma Studio
The Theme Pavilion, which is faced in solid bronze sheets, offers views of an adjacent lake through windows in its finger-like wings.


Plasma Studio
Drawing courtesy of Plasma Studio
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London-based Plasma Studio is completing its competition-winning project for the Xi’an International Horticultural Exposition 2011, which opens on April 28 and expects to host 12 million guests. Called “Flowing Gardens,” the project is a series of buildings and landscapes set along an axis to create a centerpiece to the 418-hectare site. The Expo lies outside the ancient capital of Xi’an in the newly formed Chan-Ba Ecological District where a once-flat landscape has been transformed with rolling hills and a man-made lake. According to Plasma Studio co-founder Holger Kehne, his firm’s design responds to this artificial place rather than to Xi’an’s history. “We’re trying to do something very contemporary, relating to the performance of the landscape itself,” while suggesting a historical connection to Chinese gardens, says Kehne.

Visitors to Flowing Gardens arrive at the Guangyuan Entrance, a tensile bridge structure developed with Arup, then move through a landscape designed with Plasma’s sister company, GroundLab. The next stop is the heart of the project, the Theme Pavilion, which is faced in locally made solid bronze sheets and offers views of an adjacent lake through windows in its finger-like wings. Finally visitors travel across the lake by boat to the Greenhouse, a conventional structure with a complex geometry.

Other international designers with projects at the Expo include: Martha Schwartz, Benedetta Tagliabue of EMBT, and Adriaan Geuze of West 8. After the show’s 178-day run, only Flowing Gardens and one other building will remain. It has yet to be determined what they will be used for. Kehne notes, “There was some talk about the Greenhouse becoming a restaurant or a church.” But one Xi’an legacy is certain. Following its good experience with the Expo, and recent projects for Ordos and Datong, Plasma is opening an office in Beijing.

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