I recently wrote about the successful integration of architecture and landscape architecture at the 2012 Yeosu World Exposition. As far as individual pavilion designs are concerned, nowhere is such a combination more evident than in the GS Caltex pavilion. Designed by architecture firm Atelier Brückner, this structure begs the question: Is this a building or a garden?
As a visitor approaches the pavilion, one initially confronts a grove of artificial bamboo made of translucent fiberglass-reinforced composite. (I suggest bamboo only because of the vague resemblance, although the architects describe the effect as that of an "outsized rice field"). To reach the structure within, one has to cross a field of gravel in which the poles are planted, thus inviting a process of discovery. The "building" is clad in shimmering chrome, obfuscating its contents with the reflection of its surroundings. Motivated by the potential blurring of architecture and landscape, the architect's stated goal for the design of the building enclosure was that it be "optically withdrawn in its entirety."
Like many other commercial pavilions, the interior exhibit of this structure is professionally produced, yet unmemorable. Unfortunately, the mystique and visual potency of the exterior design doesn't fully translate to the inside, which is overcome with commercial messaging. But this 2012 World Expo pavilion does raise potent questions about the relationship between building and landscape.
Frank Lloyd Wright once bemoaned that surgeons can bury their mistakes, but architects can only plant foliage in front of theirs. In the case of GS Caltex, an embrace of that approach—with artificial "plantings"—turns out to be a good thing.