Our Summer Holidays - Swiss
In the middle of a wet London winter we find ourselves reminiscing
over our pictures of sunnier times at Swiss Expo '02. Having heard
that there was good stuff to see and what's more, fun to be had,
we packed our bags to spend a few days of summer in the three lakes
region of central Switzerland.
Expos are usually where individual countries promote themselves
with extravagant pavilions and exhibitions illustrating their own
brilliance. This was not a usual expo. The pavilions, events and
attractions at Swiss Expo explored issues such as Health, Identity,
Happiness, and why Swiss villages have such amusing names. The over
ridding question was why? Was it educational - a common experience
for an otherwise diverse country? We'll leave that for others to
answer. What Swiss Expo offered was a glimpse of a near future that
was design-wise incredibly 'of the moment'. A stunning design show
that didn't even pretend to be one.
In an act of democracy and good thinking the expo was spread around
four 'Arteplages'. Each site was situated in a town bordering one
of the three lakes. Yverdon-les-Bains, Neuchtel, Biel/Bienne
and Murten/Morat.. Half of the sites in the German speaking part
of the country - half in the French speaking part. A fifth 'Arteplage'
- 'Jura' was onboard a boat that traveled daily on the lakes between
On reflection, the lasting impression of the expo is the 'lightness'
of the sites. Typified by the Arteplage at Yverdon-les-Bains designed
by the Extasia team including Dutch landscape architects West 8.
Exploring the site at Yverdon, there was a feeling of 'just enough
stuff'. An appropriate temporality to the structures and landscape
that brought a relaxed air to the site. This didn't feel like money
wasted or trees unnecessarily felled. Paths were denoted by different
sized gravel, signage was printed on fabric, and buildings were
made from stacks of logs. Everything felt like it had been or would
be reused. Palais de L'equilibre (Palace of Equilibrium) at Arteplage
Neuchtel was made from the reused timber of the Swiss Pavilion
build at the Hanover Expo. Made entirely of wood, the building represented
7 minutes of timber growth from Swiss forests.
As well as the material lightness there was also a sophisticated
lightness of touch with brand. Although sponsored by the biggest
Swiss corporations, banks and supermarkets as well as the state,
there was no hard sell, no big logos (well only a few), no official
drink, snack or medication. This seemed light years away from the
brandfest of the UK's millennium dome where the sponsors seemed
to eclipse the experience itself.
The material and brand lightness served only to enhance the intellectual
and sensual experience of the Expo. Good design and messages combined
to engage the visitor on both rational and emotional level. Without
ever feeling over-designed the smallest detail was filled with meaning
Delayed for several years, essentially because they wanted to get
it right, the Expo showed great attention to detail, including well
designed places to stay, effective signage, and humorous comments
on the trash bins. All this with a gentleness of touch that made
the experience in the broadest sense thoroughly pleasant. The Expo
successfully engaged the individual in creative thought about health,
consumption, communication, love and money without ever dictating
a set of ideas.
The Swiss expo ran from May 15, 2002 - October 20, 2002. You can
find out more about the exhibits online at www.expo02.ch
Ok it wasn't so sunny - Cloud by New York architects and Artists Diller
Yverdon-les-Bains Plan Image
Ich und das Universum (Me and the universe) - Arteplage Yverdon
explored the senses and sexuality, the landscape park and architecture
designed by Extasia team including West
8, Rotterdam and Vehova & Jauslin. Zurich (http://www.vj-arch.com/).
Beds of different colored gravel form paths to guide you around
the park in-between hills that hide more services and exhibitions.
Signage in the four national languages of Switzerland and printed
on fabric here guides you through the hills and gravel beds of Yverdon.
Simple effective and elegant seating at Yverdon.
Wastebin in front of Oui! - where you could get officially married
for 24 hours. One of the seemingly endless number of bins with humourous
phrases in seemingly endless numbers of languages. Well we assume
they were all funny. Markus
Keller and Rolf Willi Zurich.
The graffitied exterior of 'Money and Value - the last taboo' at
Biel/Bienne. Coated in layers of gold you were encouraged to carve
messages into the wall reminiscent of anti-capitalist protests.
'Grenzen (er)leben' - 'Exploring boundaries', Biel/Bienne a construction
surrounded with a penetrable zone that challenged the notion of
inside and outside.
Did you get married - was the most asked question between fellow
visitors. 'Oui!' gave you the opportunity to marry whoever you choose
for 24hrs. The architecture itself was literally dazzling. Fluorescent
bright colored poles set against a gleaming white form - so white
the 'minister' had to wear glasses. Married couples could be spotted
around the park, their 24hr glow sticks indicating their bond.
Some things at the Expo leaned rather more heavily on the emotional,
rather than the rational. A great example was 'Strangers in Paradise',
at Arteplage Biel (in German) or Bienne (in French). This was a
whirlwind ride on shopping trolley through a multistory clichÈd
Switzerland, cows, gold, mountains and alpine Heidiland. A sublime
experience sponsored by one of Switzerland's biggest supermarket
- watch the 2MB AVI file!