DIT – UK Pavilion at Beijing Horticultural Expo 2019
Client: Department for International Trade (UK Gov)
Event Name: Beijing Horticultural Expo 2019
Agency Website: www.m-is.com
Department for International Trade briefed M to design, build and deliver a single story contemporary pavilion of up to 400 sq metres and a garden of up to 2,000 square metre UK pavilion at the Beijing Horticultural Expo 2019.
The Expo was a flagship event to mark the celebration of the People’s Republic of China 70th Anniversary. China is the UK’s 5th largest trading partner and the Expo was a major opportunity to expand that relationship and boost UK exports.
The brief was to deliver a garden and a pavilion, demonstrating the very best of UK creativity and innovation in garden design, plant science and the preservation of the natural environment, and an events programme to promote British expertise and build new partnerships notable in the ornamental horticulture, agri-food, agri-tech and tourism sectors. The final design should draw on the themes of ‘Live Green, Live better’, Defra’s 25 year Environment Plan and the UK Agriculture Policy.
The garden and pavilion was expected to offer an innovative, engaging experience for all age groups with tactile and interactive educational and awareness features addressing initiatives such as climate adaptation, sustainability, botany and environmental enhancement.
The final build would be an example of contemporary sustainable, low carbon/energy building and garden design, incorporating features to illustrate green roofs and food planting areas (by way of example)
Opportunities to build diplomatic and trade relationships beyond the agri-food and agri-tech sectors must be captured in the themes, design and experience of the UK Expo Site.
The UK Garden and Pavilion celebrated the theme “Innovating for a Greener Future” and spanned health, personal and urban spaces, bio-diversity, UK heritage and art.
Visitors learnt how herbs and flowers can be used in food and drink and how urban spaces can be transformed into areas of cultivation and play, bringing the natural world into the city and inspiring people to live more sustainable lives at home and to reuse, refresh or recycle their products.
A meadow showcased the importance of animal pollinators, particularly the honey bee, while bringing to the fore the challenges our meadows face in the UK.
M selected the internationally renowned Briony Doubleday from Bee’s Gardens, to support the garden design while M created a pavilion that was at the heart of UK participation in a five-month long programme of activities at the Expo. The pavilion, which was a 2,000-square-metre space that included woodland, a wildflower meadow and biodiversity garden has already proved to be a compelling attraction.
Also featured were installations by sculptor Rob Mulholland. They used a variety of different materials and forms to show the delicate relationship between humans and the natural world.
Other instantly recognisable partners included the Royal Horticultural Society, Kew Gardens and the Eden Project as well as numerous organisations representing Agri-tech, horticulture, education, green finance, clean energy, digital health, ‘new’ transport and sustainable construction/architecture projects.
On interrogation of the brief, M identified additional opportunities for the UK and Department for International Trade in the Horticultural Expo that could open up global opportunities and build strong relationship. We presented a strategy that changed the visitor experience from a garden journey to an environmental, scientific and social experience through a series of feature points, within the overall master plan that, through M’s own research, would seek out stories and content that brought the theme to life.
While the project could have simply been a contemporary take on a quintessential British garden the M influencing strategy was to transform the pavilion presence into a participatory and immersive landscape where sensory, educational, play, horticultural and sustainable technology from the UK could be showcased, complimented by lighthearted art and taste experiences. DIT took our strategic advice on board and instructed us to commence with our creative ideas for the pavilion. Although this was a great opportunity for M to provide support at such an exciting event, there were a few limiting factors which we would have to overcome in order to execute the perfect expo.
A major component was M’s approach to update and refresh the garden design to ensure season specific planting and to reflect other major international events.
M were given the instruction to proceed with only 3 months until the Expo opened. Given such a tight time frame we still had to ensure that every effort would be made in our design and implementation to celebrate the UK’s rich horticultural heritage and display our capabilities in green living, sustainability, and environmental conservation, whilst producing a structure that could be made, built and ready to welcome VIP’s in three months.
The pavilion was made durable to withstand elements without compromising the look, feel and sustainability of the design and the materials during six months of the Expo and millions of visitors
Over 162 days, under an extremely tight budget, the pavilion welcomed 1.1 million visitors (1.1 million photos of the Union Jack flag green wall); organised 28 business and consumer events in agri-tech, sports, green finance, green technology, children embracing nature, education and food and drinks. Total global media coverage reached an audience of 1.6 billion – more than the entire population of China.
The UK Pavilion scooped the top awards from a choice of over 100 participating countries – the Grand award for international participants and the Gold prize for the best garden.