UK Pavilion


The studio was selected to design the UK pavilion for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. One of the brief’s main requirements was to make a building that would place in the top five pavilions. To solve this challenge with a limited budget and a site the scale of a football pitch, we created a singular building with a striking exterior that would communicate its content and provide respite from the sensory overload of the Expo. Rather than trying to show all of Britain’s best known assets, the scheme focused on the UK’s pioneering history of urban parks and gardens, as well as its botanical research heritage and took inspiration from Kew Garden’s Millennium Seed Bank, one of the largest plant conservation programmes in the world. We designed a building with a kinetic exterior that would sway gently in the breeze, almost like long grass buffeted by wind. Developed according to computer modelling and on-site adjustments, its flexible ‘hairs’ were arranged around a central cube. Composed of 60,000 acrylic rods, each 7.5 metres long, the rods transmitted light, illuminating the interior and the 250,000 seeds embedded in the rod tips. Surrounded by a landscape like a crumpled piece of paper, the inclined surfaces framed the ‘Seed Cathedral’ and housed facilities, as well giving visitors a place to relax. The open public space acted like a village green and emphasised the theme of the UK pavilion itself. Of more than 200 other entries, the pavilion won the Expo’s top prize, the gold medal for Pavilion Design, and was visited by over seven million people during the expo.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the Government of the United Kingdom


Shanghai, China







Project Leader

Katerina Dionysopoulou

Studio team

Peter Ayres, Jem Hanbury, Ingrid Hu, Jaroslav Hulin, Robert Wilson, Stuart Wood


Andrew Cahn, Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tongji University, Atelier Ten, Philip Dodd, Mace, Casson Mann, Ian MacCartney, Mike Smith Studio, Mark Jones, David Langdon & Seah, Adriana Paice, RHWL, Safe Consulting, Paul Smith, John Sorrell, Wolfgang Stuppy, Suzhong Construction Group, Albert Taylor, Troika