Belgian pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai

24 May 2010

Today I'll take a look at the architecture and interior of the Belgian pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai that runs from 1 May through 31 October 2010. The event in Shanghai will host over 200 countries that participate with their own building. The theme of this year’s expo is "Better City, Better Life", a plea for a better living in future urban environments thanks to a carefully devised urban policy and sustainable development...

The Belgian pavilion

The Belgian pavilion

The Belgian pavilion interpret the theme "Better City, Better Life" with a design and construction that can be re-used again for other purposes after the Expo as it is easy to dismantle and rebuild. It was a conscious decision to not build on the whole and instead reserving around one third for green space. The building’s energy consumption has been optimized by limiting the use of glass to the north façade in order to reduce the building’s heat load. On the roof, 1100 m² solar panels generate energy for use by the kitchens and the restaurant.

A Brain Cell as concept

The Belgian pavilion floorplan at the Shanghai 2010 Expo.

The main purpose for such a pavilion is that it has to communicate the "meaning of Belgium". The inspiring overall concept of the Brain Cell, or neuron, inside the pavilion demonstrates the importance of science to the intellectual and cultural development of our society and symbolizes our highly globalized and complex world with all of its communication facilities. The Brain Cell also refers directly to the role of Belgium as one of Europe’s main cross-points and gathering centers. The Brain Cell is also a direct reference to innovation in the field of biotechnology, chemistry, and nanotechnology. The exterior of the building is in contrast with the playful inside and organic form of the brain cell. This laid-back form refers to the pragmatism and the discretion so typical of Belgium. The brain cell has changing lights and colors so that it fits and integrates with Shanghai, aka 'city of lights'. The multitude of visual effects in the pavilion echoes the European Clair-obscure movement and the Chinese shadow theatre. The effects will be visible from the main public spaces in front of the pavilion. The Belgian Pavilion has been designed by Conix Architects.

A few images from the Belgian pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 Expo.

Food, chocolate and beer

Some of the highlights will of course be chocolate and beer, two delicacies that have an excellent reputation around the world. These two will have their own sections. In the Chocolate Corner, the 4 major Belgian chocolate companies Barry Callebaut, Godiva, Guylian and Neuhaus will be joined by 70 traditional chocolatiers who will each present and offer samples of their expertise and products for one week. A few thousand chocolates will be handed out to visitors every day. The tavern will offer visitors the chance to get to know the varied Belgian beer landscape. More than twenty beers produced by different Belgian brewers are on the menu, and visitors will also be able to try typical Belgian specialities. In the Belgian Essence Restaurant, 12 Belgian Michelin star chefs will each be taking turns to set the menu for two weeks.

Belgium is a country of strong cultural activity and tradition. This will be demonstrated in the Art Corner on the top floor of the pavilion, which offers visitors a panoramic view of my country’s wealth of art whilst enjoying a rest in the lounge area. The gardens, which cover around 30% of the entire pavilion site, also offer a pleasant setting in which you can take a break and relax.

Other highlights

The Polar Station and Solvay's Solar Plane will demonstrate Belgian pioneering work in the field of renewable energy, alternative fuels and climate research. These are two fantastic examples of engineering in extreme circumstances. In the Diamond Corner, visitors will have the chance to see how the stones are cut. There will also be a wide range of showpieces for visitors to admire and to buy if they like it. In the Chemistry & Life Sciences Corner, the visitor has the opportunity to discover the innovative know-how of the industry within my country.

The furniture

Some of the furniture is from Vitra. In the movie you'll see the .03 chairs from Maarten Van Severen, and the Alcove Highback sofa's from Bouroullec brothers. You'll also see the Gargantua garden table from Extremis. Some of the lighting in the building has been provided by DARK.

This morning I've heard a scope on Radio 1 that the Belgian pavilion already welcomed 400.000 people since the opening on May 1st. Not bad at all.

Belgian Pavilion Shanghai Expo 2010 from Invest in West Flanders on Vimeo.


  1. 1 Carlos Vercoutere 24 May 2010

    It seems like a very nice concept. If it was closer to home I would definitely visit the pavilion. Chocolate and beer!

  2. 2 Oni Wu 27 May 2010

    Hi Veerle, I’m from Shanghai China.  Wish you will visit my city. But actually as a local people, we don’t like this Expo.  It wastes much money and time. But I still welcome you come China.

  3. 3 Daverich 31 May 2010

    The design is brilliant. Every aspect of the building is designed so thoughtfully. Great. Thanks for the post.

  4. 4 Parimal Satyal 04 Jun 2010

    Hi, Veerle. I happen to be in China at the moment, and will be in Shanghai around the end of June.

    I’m glad you wrote about the Belgian pavilion. There are simply too many cultures that interest me, but I’ll make sure I visit the Belgian pavilion. (Also must go to the German, Chinese, Nepalese and French pavilions)

    Traditional Belgian chocolate, beer and visual experiments — can’t wait!