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
DIT secured a space within the Beijing Expo 2019 (one of the largest expos in China and the largest horticultural expo to date) to showcase the strength of the UK as a leading investment and business destination, across multi sectors such as financial services, life sciences, innovation, technology and education.
The DIT planned to produce a UK 2000 sq m Garden within their space to showcase ‘Innovating for a Greener Future’.
With China being the UK’s largest trading partner outside of Europe and North America and with the country putting ‘Clean Growth’ at the very heart of its current five-year economic strategy, it was vitally important for UK government and private sector to showcase the very best the UK has to offer in the identified sectors.
M was briefed to design a UK pavilion that drew on the Expo headline theme of ‘Live Green, Live Better’, Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, and the evolving UK agriculture policy, ‘The future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’.
Both the garden and the pavilion were required to focus on innovation and an engaging experience for all age groups. Tactile, interactive educational and awareness features covering issues such as climate adaptation, sustainability, botany, and environmental enhancement needed to be included.
The opportunities around developing diplomatic and trade relationships beyond the agri-food and agri-tech sectors were significant and needed to be captured in the themes, design and experience of the UK Expo site. The work had to engage Expo visitors with the garden and pavilion, support an associated events programme and inspire a strong legacy of diplomatic relationships and trade networks in the long term.
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.
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 five months of the Expo and millions of visitors.
Collaborating with partners such as David Morley Architects, RHS award winning garden designer Briony Doubleday and sculptor and environmental artist Rob Mulholland. The UK pavilion was conceived in the heart of a garden, with full event facilities, audio visual technology and a flexible space to present, entertain and showcase to VIPs, businesses and tourists alike why the UK should be forefront in their minds. Furthermore the pavilion welcomed ministerial visits and foreign delegations throughout the 5 months. Our creative approach was highly flexible and delivered a pavilion and a garden that constantly transformed throughout the life and seasonal weather of the expo.
Visitors learnt how herbs and flowers can be used in food and drink and how urban space 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 meadows face in the UK.
Also featured were installations by sculptor Rob Mulholland, using a variety of different materials and forms to show the delicate relationship between humans and the natural world
All the gardens had a planted roofs which were watered by rainwater, and when the rainwater ran off the roof, it was stored into a water vessel which was used to pump into the ‘living green’ wall. Furthermore, garden sheds were designed and built by the UK charity Groundwork and re-used bottles and recycled materials. Planting was designed to attract as much wildlife as possible to provide them a safe environment to thrive.
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.