Located on the EXPO’s main street Decumano, the Russian pavilion is a 3,260 square meter building. The structure virtually repeats the given plot of land with an elongated and rather narrow parallelepiped configuration, thrusting forward a dynamic cantilever over the main entrance to the pavilion. The 30-meter cantilever has a striking curved form, giving the structure a memorable silhouette which is clearly visible in the EXPO’s panorama. From the side of the main entrance the cantilever is lined with polished stainless steel, so that not only does it provide visitors protection from rain or sun, while at night it reflects the light of lanterns, but it has itself become an "attraction" - a gigantic mirror in which people can photograph themselves and their surroundings.
One of the key ideas of this project was the continuity of the over 100-year architectural tradition of the Soviet Union and Russia participating in the world’s fair. The facilities for the national pavilions were built in various styles – these were structures of constructivism in the 1920s, and Art Deco in the 1930s, and modernism in the postwar period, but common features can be clearly traced in their architectural appearance: the pavilions have a dynamic, simple and easy to remember form with mandatory emphasis on the main entrance area. This is the idea that the architects of SPEECH tried to embody in their design using the language of contemporary architecture.
It is also significant that all the pavilions at the exhibition are very close to one another, and when you go down the main avenue, you actually do not perceive them separately because the buildings are too dense. The Russian pavilion in fact has a very important view point: when visitors turn off the decumanus towards the pavilion and see the narrow area in front of its main entrance. The cantilever faces precisely this area.
Wood was selected as the principal material – at the same time it is the most environmentally friendly and the most traditional for Russian architecture. The entire top tier of the pavilion is finished with wood paneling while the lower tier is faced with transparent and opaque glass. The entrance area is executed out of transparent glass and is approachable, inherently conventional boundary between the EXPO territory and the exhibition. The interiors of the pavilion area are also designed by SPEECH: the mirrored ceiling is echoed by the load-bearing columns trimmed in stainless steel, and the oval-shaped reception desk is made of wood, picking up and developing the theme of the rigid rhythm of slats on the side facades of the building.
Architecture: SPEECH (Sergei Tchoban, Alexei Ilyin, Marina Kuznetskaya)
Client: Government of the Russian Federation
General contractor: RT Expo
Exhibition concept: Yuri Avvakumov
Exhibition design: Simpateka RUS
Total area: 3,260 sq. m
text from EXPO 2015 Catalogue
The Russian national pavilion at EXPO 2015 had a difficult and complex task set before it – to become not only a self-sufficient and architecturally striking representation of our country at the world's largest fair, but also adequately reflect its theme of "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". Preserving the continuity of the long-standing tradition of creating national pavilions became no less important for the authors of the project (architects Sergei Tchoban, Alexei Ilyin and Marina Kuznetskaya, SPEECH architectural bureau).
Russia has participated in the world’s fair from the very beginning of its existence in 1851, and almost always presented a national exposition in a freestanding pavilion designed by the leading architects of the time. Each of them went down in architecture history as a unique exhibition structure, but common features can also be clearly traced in their architectural appearance: many of the pavilions have a dynamic, simple, and memorable form with a significant emphasis on the main entrance area.
The USSR pavilion designed by architect Konstantin Melnikov at the International Exhibition of 1925 in Paris was exactly this. Instead of traditional windows, glazing two-stories high was used, and the usual rectangular box exhibition volume was cut diagonally with an open staircase, covered with interlacing panels, while the entrance was punctuated by a decorative mast. The architect Ilya Golosov offered a no less innovative pavilion, basing his design on the motif of slabs embedded into one another and placed with a slight shift so that they created the impression of motion. Later, this same motif was used by the architect Boris lofan – for the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris, he proposed a pavilion in the form of a pedestal, a dynamic composition which progressed as a parabola and ended with a powerful accent in the form of the famous sculpture by Vera Mukhina, "Worker and Kholkhoz Woman". Just two years later lofan once again built the national pavilion at the EXPO (1939, New York) – and again at the core of the design a swiftly expanding composition is easily read (this time the building received a horseshoe shape), culminating with a dynamically accentuated entrance. This tradition continued to be developed by many other architects – such as Konstantin Melnikov’s design for the 1962 EXPO in New York and Mikhail Posokhin’s designs for the Montreal (1967) and Osaka (1970) exhibitions.
Easily observed even with these few examples, the ideas of the different architects who created the designs for the world fair’s national pavilions during the 20th century are united by a clear common thread – the attraction to a laconic, memorable volume, striving forward. And in addressing the typology of an exhibition pavilion in the 21st century, we sought to express the same traits using the language of contemporary architecture, to create a memorable combination of evolved traditional forms with an absolutely modern and state of the art embodiment.
The plot allocated for the construction of the pavilion has a narrow and very specific L-shape and furthermore is closely surrounded on three sides by the structures of other participating countries. These limitations also directed us to the necessity of making the main emphasis precisely on the entrance area – the pavilion’s main facades do not influence the silhouette. There was another important limitation: in accordance with the exhibition area’s master plan, the height of the pavilion was limited to 12 meters, and only in one place could be increased to 17 meters. Covering an area of 3,260 square meters, the structure virtually repeats the given plot of land with an elongated parallelepiped configuration, thrusting forward an energetic, cantilevered protuberance where space and regulations allow for this – above the pedestrian area in front of the main entrance to the pavilion.
The cantilever almost 30 meters in length has a curved outline, giving the whole structure a memorable silhouette, clearly visible in the panorama of EXPO 2015. From the side of the main entrance this element is lined with polished stainless steel, so that the cantilever will not only provide visitors shade from the sun and in the evening reflect the light of lanterns, but in and of itself would be an attraction – a giant mirror in which people will be able to photograph themselves and their surroundings.
Wood was selected as the principal material – at the same time it is the most environmentally friendly and the most traditional for Russian architecture. The entire top tier of the pavilion is finished with wood paneling, while the lower tier is faced with transparent and opaque glass. The entrance area is executed out of transparent glass and is an approachable, inherently conventional boundary between the EXPO territory and the exhibition. It is also important that all of the pavilion materials are easy to install – all wooden and glass and metal parts are made in advance and are easily and quickly assembled on site onto a metal frame. The theme of wood is continued extensively in the interior of the pavilion in the design of reception desks, cabinets, VIP floor trim, and so on.
One of the key ideas of our project was the idea that the pavilion can be not only a place for the location of the exhibition, but also an interesting public space that attracts visitors. That's precisely why the roof is flat, gradually rising towards the main entrance, landscaped and made into a place for walking, and also serving as an observation platform. Thanks to this design, visitors will be able to pass through the pavilion and from the roof take in a view of the other exhibitions. In addition, the resulting shape seamlessly integrates the building into the exhibition ensemble, and stresses its connection with the identity of the Russian landscape, which is characterized by gentle sloping ascents and descents.
EXPO 2015 is dedicated to finding ways to prevent food shortages in the world in the future, and as such a serious subject that is directly connected with the problem of resources, it seemed to us incompatible with a pretentious pavilion form, demanding of unreasonable financial investments. That is why we strove for a maximally laconic, but nonetheless expressive and elegant volume. However, despite its apparent simplicity, the pavilion’s 30-meter canopy above the entrance will create a sophisticated and interesting structure in terms of engineering, the materials and form of which are an integral continuation of the traditions of Russian architecture – both in innovative exhibition structures and in archetypal wooden architecture.