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Germany previews 'Better City, Better Life'

2009. 22 October

by Pan Zheng
( A German exhibition on environmentally sustainable urban planning is underway at the Shanghai International Industry Design Center in Baoshan District through December 15.

Sponsored by the German Consulate General in Shanghai, "Updating Germany" is part of the run-up to World Expo 2010 Shanghai whose theme is "Better City, Better Life."

The exhibition is curated by Matthias Bottger and Friedrich von Borries.

It presents 100 ideas on sustainable urban development and represents a pooling of ideas on environmentally sustainable and liveable construction.

The exhibit shows Germany's contribution to the architecture exhibition at the 2008 Biennale in Venice.

There are projections, models, videos, sound installations and photography.

"We want to show our attitude toward future planning," says Bottger. "We provide our audience with good ideas and examples of what we can do for a better future and how we can do it."

The exhibition features the best of urban architecture, green energy and useful digital technologies.

In one installation there are plants, lights and suspended bags of water - an experiment with a "climate machine." It simulates different climates and environments to give the plants what they need. Though they are grown indoors without sunshine, the plants flourish in the artificial environment.

A model of a "smart home" uses only as much electricity as needed, through digital technology and intelligent chips. Light and power are supplied to meet demand.

"Electricity usage is currently stupid and wasteful, so we need appliances that use energy selectively and can regulate their own consumption," says Bottger.

The exhibition features sustainable construction, including a wall constructed with recycled plastic bottles.

"One of the biggest environmental problems in the construction industry is that components and structures are composed of a variety of different materials that are so interconnected that they are almost impossible to break down into their component parts for recycling," says Bottger.

Thus, this model wall has components that are easy to dismantle and recycle. It eliminates the need for synthetic adhesives that generally cannot be recycled.

"We first came up with our idea of 'updating' two or three years ago," says Bottger.

"We found that in Germany, we need to do something for a sustainable future and for the next generations."

The exhibition opened last year in Germany to a good response. After China it will move to other countries.

"China is developing so fast now, and wasting too many resources," says Bottger, and it needs to update its environmental thinking.

In some exhibitions and conferences, experts focus on dire environmental threats and doomsday climate-change scenarios. This one is very different.

"We have a positive attitude toward the future," says Bottger. "Many people raise and illustrate in great detail the problems we're facing but never provide answers.

"In 'Updating Germany,' our job is to provide answers. It may not be a lasting solution, but we want to show a constructive direction. It's not a short-term project."

Date: through December 11

Venue: Shanghai International Industry Design Center, 3000 Yixian Rd, Baoshan District