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Belgium pavilion

Belgium & European Union pavilion - 11 May 2009.

Belgium is a cross-point and gathering place of Europe. Historically, politically and socially Belgium represents a place of transit and reunion of diverse cultures, races and beliefs. Our project for the pavilion reflects the diversity of people coming together in Belgium and shaping Europe in a harmonious balance.

Throughout its history the territory of Belgium has been a "place of balance" where people have gathered with common interests that surpass their national needs... It is one of the birth places of the industrial revolution and the European Union.

Belgium pavilion for more pictures (PDF) click here >>

Today Belgium is efficiently "plugged-in" to all major European countries by fast-rail, highways and shipping lanes that create a circulation system for people and information. European ultra-dense sophisticated network of cities and infrastructures, together with European tradition of social tolerance have been defining elements of Europe's and Belgium's prosperous development.

Belgium is an organic country, a living element in perpetual evolution. This organicity is also embodied in the environmental approach developed by Europe in general and Belgium in particular - it is not just a necessity, it is mainly a big opportunity. It is this delicate balance between collective necessities and individual aspirations that has inspired our concept of the Belgian-European Pavilion for the World Exhibition for Shanghai 2010.

The Brain Cell Concept

The main challenge related to the conception of the Belgian-European pavilion was to fully understand the context of the Expo 2010 and its true meaning for the China. This means we had to fully grasp Chinese culture, Shanghai complexity and their specificities. As a result, the concept of the pavilion was fed with Chinese input, so that the pavilion can be fully appreciated by Chinese.

It was obvious that the pavilion has to communicate the "meaning of Belgium". The objective was to develop a design that would reflect directly Belgium and Europe's identity while in the same time give a direct image of Belgium. Due to the overloard of visual information in Shanghai, another challenge was to provide Belgium with a complete and overwhelming image.

The image of the Brain Cell became rapidly an obvious choice. The Brain Cell is the dominant conceptual image for the pavilion. It evokes the artistic richness of Belgium, as well as all its scientific achievements that have been integrated in our daily lifestyles and contributed to our global intellectual patrimony. The Brain Cell also refers directly to the role of Belgium as one Europe's main cross-points and gathering centres. Throughout our experiences with Chinese locals in Shanghai, it appeared that although not all the Chinese are fully aware of Belgium, the meaning of this Brain Cell was easily understood.

Centrality has always been a fundamental aspect of Belgium's identity where the 3 great cultural traditions have met - the Latin on the south side, the Germanic on the east side, and the Anglo-Saxon on the north side. Nowadays Belgium has established itself as a political hub of Europe, accommodating such institutions as the European Parliament, the European commission and N.A.T.O. This node is clearly recognizable in the sky-images of highways that cross the country in all directions, and the cultural diversity of the Belgian inhabitants.

All these elements have been the key issues for Belgium's success and transformed Belgium into a fertile, creative and resourceful country driven by a spirit of openness and tolerance.

Interior and programme

All the internal functions required for the pavilion are organized in 2 main levels.
  • The ground floor is dedicated entirely to the main exposition hall (both for Belgium and Europe) and the shop. It also offers circulation space and includes some technical rooms.
  • The first floor consists of the restaurant, the VIP/business centre and the terrace. Diverse spaces on the 1st level have been organized in an L-shaped volume suspended around the "Brain Cell".

In the organization of the pavilion, the "brain cell" will serve as the main access and distribution point linking all the different internal spaces. However, its main purpose is to be an iconic element that invites the visitors of the Expo into a powerful and unique emotional and spatial voyage.

In this central space, the visitors will depart in an empiric journey through the colours, sounds and images that create the collective emotional identity of Belgium. The "Brain Cell" will be the unifying element that regulates the general atmosphere of the pavilion, using light and sounds to change from a serene and quiet mood to a more colourful and festive environment.

The design of the "brain cell" was conceived in a way that does not reduce the flexibility of the exposition hall. Thereby, additional elements can be integrated according to the needs of the entities present at EXPO2010.


To materialize the brain cell inside the pavilion, a synthetic textile material, fully recyclable, will be used, allowing light to pass through and project the shadows of visitors "travelling" inside.

Since the EXPO 2010 will remain open until 23 o'clock, the shape of the Brain Cell was conceived in such a way that it can be emphasized with internal and projected lighting.

This will create a multitude of visual effects echoing the Clair-Obscur movement and the traditional Chinese shadow theatre which will be visible from the main public spaces in front of the pavilion.