The three installations make use of the spaces under the sharply angled walkway canopies leading to the main pavilion, the much praised Seed Cathedral by Heatherwick Studio. They are also responsive to the spiky seed cathedral that acts as a kind of repository of the world’s botanical diversity, literally providing a home to the seeds of a plethora of plant species.
Taking as their starting point the UK’s relationship between nature and the urban, each work maps out a narrative design concept in which Britain’s cities and their particular paradigm of the built environment and flora and fauna is considered; the cities of the past, present and future.
The first of these, Green Map, takes as its starting point Britain’s history of integrating greenery within the city. As the cradle of the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, the grim social conditions and levels of pollution in British cities was once something to strike fear into the hearts of visitors and provoke outrage from privileged philanthropists. Yet, in reaction to these grim new cities, the idea of the green city was also born. Britain was one of the first countries to systematically introduce green spaces into the urban environment which accounts for why London, even today, is forty percent green space, certainly an achievement when compared with other cities of similar size.
Green Map is literally that, a map of various UK cities in which only the green spaces have been printed, the contours and delineation of urban space defined by its vegetation rather than the building blocks that compose its built environment. The map is adhered to the angular canopy walls leading to and from the main pavilion where it becomes an abstracted aesthetic décor as much as a blueprint for a blooming city.
Conversely, the second work Open City, takes the buildings as its starting point, here realised in transparent resins and suspended, inverted, from the walkway canopies. Here, the intention has been to try and capture the relationship between British cities – largely low rise affairs – and the sky. In British cities, where the sight of the sky is rarely obscured, the notorious British weather – drizzle, overcast, fog, rain- is also seldom obscured.
From the city in the sky consisting of over 300 clear casts of traditional buildings, small lighting devices simulate a version of the British weather, project falling raindrops onto the surface of the walkway below. In this upside down city in which it rains upwards, disorientating and landing on the ground at the feet of those approaching the pavilion, the horizon becomes an axis of reflection rather than separation.
Both installations by Troika will remain on display at the UK pavilion until the end of October. So, for anyone still planning to take in the stupendous experience that is the World Expo in Shanghai, now would be a good time to do so.