What is heritage? Was ist Denkmal?

This year students from Re_Map and Emergent Urbanism units participated in an international workshop in Hannover with European counterparts from TU Braunschweig, lauded by Peter Cook as producing some of the freshest new architectural talent. 10 years after Expo 2000, the students were asked to examine the state of the former Expo site and suggest possibilities for its regeneration, re-use or redistribution and examining the current state or location of the array of buildings. The site currently is vastly under occupied and many of the pavilions lie empty or derelict, though some of the more generic building types have become offices and education institutes. Many of the built objects were relocated almost immediately as the Expo concluded, though some were too permanent in their structural make-up to consider removal and too specific in their programme to provide obvious re-use scenarios. Perhaps the most renowned building of the event was the Dutch Pavilion, a vertical park, designed by MVRDV at the height of their post-FARMAX fame; it is exemplar of both permanence and specificity as the precursors to ruin.

The Dutch Pavilion was the architectural draw of the festival and the figure 2,800,000, applied at the end of the Expo, signals the number of visitors that encountered the weirdly stacked world. Perversely, the conceptual thinking behind the scheme was one concerning ‘man, nature, technology’ (the themes of the Expo and the vocal hook of Kraftwerk’s Expo2000 audio track) and symbiotic and cyclical systems; an ecology using vapour cooling, passive heating, biomass and wind generated power. The environmental contingency did not stretch to consider the post-expo landscape and the pavilion, devoid of windmills has been left to rot and vandalism since passing into private hands some years ago. The actual ownership of the site is now uncertain. The Dutch government are reported to mildly embarrassed at the scar they have inadvertently deposited on the outskirts of the city and are entering into negotiations to find a satisfactory reconfiguration of the existing condition. The rooftop restaurant shows signs of recent inhabitation by person or persons unknown – quite some address!

Working in teams in extreme weather conditions, the students spent three days analysing, recording and researching the cultural, social and political context of the site and its buildings. Fighting frostbite and visa delays the groups valiantly dedicated hours of work at the on site media-lab and developed and presented propositions based on their studies. The topic, unbeknownst to the organising parties at its inception, is a hot one in Hannover, sufficient to attract the attention of the local media and to warrant a representation of the ideas in a lecture at the Expo Plaza Festival in June 2010.

EXPO_GARDENS. A reappropriation of the international cultural flavour of the festival by the propagation and cultivation of plants indigenous to the countries that once occupied the vacant sites of the lower section of the expo site. Rather than offer a built solution, the group felt that an alternative draw to visit the relatively isolated and peripheral location would be met by the provision of botanical gardens paralleled with a commercial nursery.

GLAUBE[al]. Building on the success of The Whale as a church, this proposal assumes the global characteristics of the festival and the potential of reinstating the mothballed high speed rail link, by the development of a multi-faith park. A egalitarian landscape based on algorithmic projections of visitors, their faith, nationality would provide neutral meditation and encounter chambers for the cross pollination of faiths and ideas.

EXPO_EXPO. A gathering of all of the decaying and unloved monuments to World Expos and the kitsch replication of some that are treasured. A montage construction of assembled icons with a plethora of meaning. Are they monuments to an optimism of which we are now cynical? Are they demonstrative of a technology we now deride? Are they a spectacle or a dying dream?

DISPERSING CULTURE. After examining the array of pavilions that had been relocated either as originally intended, bought after the event or gifted, the students proposed the continued and accelerated removal and relocation of disused pavilions. The scheme was underpinned by a social agenda and the buildings were to be put to use within the city of Hannover as children’s nurseries, clinics and social centres at the expense of the authority and in the most deprived wards. The aim: to bring the world-class architecture of the expo from its desolate position on the edge of the city and give it to the people.

HYBRID CONSUMPTIVE LEISURE STRIP. Pursuing MVRDV’s formative agenda, this team examined the compression of disused pavilions and their deconstruction to provide a unique leisure landscape for a multitude of urban pastimes. Implicit in the scheme was the collision of programme and an anticipated migration between disciplines and the ‘consumption’ of leisure in an intensified experiential zone of motion and action. The area to be converted and host this amalgamation of activity was effectively the service strip of the festival site and plugs directly into the vast car parking provision that serves the adjacent, functioning, Hannover-Messe trade show centre.

CONTINENTAL TEST TRACK. Inspired by ideas floated in the WPA 2.0 competition earlier in the academic year, this team saw the reignition of an invigorated industry with specialist facilities as the key to unlocking the potential of the Expo site. Drawing on the history of Continental in Hannover and imagining the integrated growth of the German motor industry in consumer and sports arenas, a new test track with a rebranded Dutch Pavilion as its HQ would provide for all manufacturers to work with Continental in research and development at the new centre.

The full results of the workshop may be viewed online at: http://futurexpo.wordpress.com/


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