Crystal of Reason

  • contemporary architecture

For Yekaterinburgs bid book for the right to host the World Universal Exhibition "Expo-2020", ABD Architects developed a concept of arranging the exhibition facilities.


At the end of this year, in Paris, the venue of the World Universal Exhibition "EXPO 2020" will be announced. Besides Russia's Yekaterinburg, this role is claimed by four cities - Dubai, Sao Paulo, Ayutthaya, and Izmir. However, the most important part of the bid book that our country has submitted to take part in this high-profile competition, is the architectural proposal and the town-planning contest of the "Expo" territory in Yekaterinburg developed by ABD Architects.

This exhibition is not only a major international event, but also a very effective way to stimulate the development of the city and the region where it is organized. That is why the project of ABD architects provides not only for the "Expo" with all the necessary facilities, but also a strategy to use these facilities after the event. After the exhibition is over, the greatest changes will be made in the first place to the expo park: some pavilions will be dismantled and utilized; some will be turned into office and cultural spaces, while the residential and public buildings will become the residential stock of the city.

As the area for Expo Park, Yekaterinburg offered the architects two places to choose from: one in the immediate vicinity of the airport, and the other not far away from the heart of the city, on the bank of a large natural lake. The choice was made in favor of the Verkh-Isetsky Lake - not only because this place is more attractive but mostly because of the fact that the new residential buildings, the roads, and the public facilities as well as the landscaped territories are more appropriate and required within, and not outside, the city. This place has other benefits as well. For example, there is a symbolic border of Europe and Asia nearby, and this attraction can be made part of the exposition in the open air. What is more, in the immediate vicinity, there is a high hill, on the top of which a sightseeing platform can be built, from which the entire future expo park will be plainly seen.

The transport plan of the territory of the future exhibition was developed with consideration of the already-approved project of highway development in Russia. The architects proposed to build a bridge across the lake and thus close the minor transport ring of Yekaterinburg. Simultaneously, this will ensure the best accessibility of the exhibition grounds both from the north and from the south. The bridge will be a two-level one, besides the highway, it is planned to lay a railroad track on it that will connect the exhibition with the airport. The superhighway that runs from the bridge, in turn, will approach the transport junction that will connect it with the Moscow highway running from the West, and with the street leading to the center of city. Next to the highway junction, a capacious parking lot will be built, together with a transport and transfer terminal, the latter uniting under its roof a subway and an underground station, a bus depot, shopping areas, and a conference hall with a hotel.

The main entrance into the Expo-park is located in the immediate proximity from the transport terminal. In addition, the exhibition area will be accessible by city bus directly from the city center, and from the Expo Village. In addition to its own subway station, "Expo" is planned to connect with the heart of Yekaterinburg by a tramway line, and there will be built a helipad for VIP-persons. Inside the Expo-Park, only environmentally-friendly kind of transport will be used - electro bus with a route covering the entire perimeter of the expo area, and the water tram. For the water tram, the authors propose to dig a ring channel that will be filled with the water from the lake.

The existing streets of Yekaterinburg set the main axes of the newly-designed territory of the Expo-Park and its residential quarters, which, according to the architects' plan, will ensure a maximally organic inclusion of the improved section into the already-formed structure of the city. However, this was only one of the challenges faced by the authors of the concept. The layout of the expo area took into account all sorts of factors. Among others, this was the uniformity of the distribution of the points of attraction and services for the visitors, and the ease of finding one's bearings at the exhibition, and the accessibility of each specific pavilion. Totally, the exhibition will consist of 103 pavilions - these will form the squares, and these squares, in turn, will be "strung", very much like beads on the main pedestrian axis that will stretch from west to east.

As is the custom at Expo, the large exhibiting countries are building their pavilions by themselves, while the smaller countries occupy the so-called "joints" that are going to be built by the on-venue construction company. Besides, the exhibition is going to feature quite a few of "corporate" and "theme' pavilions, as well as the pavilions of federal regions of Russia. It is planned that the latter will be built along the main promenade - the esplanade that starts at the main entrance. Its perspective will be closed by the pavilion of Russia that is going to be executed in the shape of a bridge that symbolically connects Europe and Asia.

After the pavilion of Russia, the axis of the esplanade will be continued by the developed pier, which is planned as the area for conducting light shows and fireworks. The entire territory of the exhibition is divided into the day and night zones. When the pavilions are closed, the visitors go over to the embankment. Designed as one big natural park, it is filled with a lot of "evening-type" facilities: expo-arena, amphitheater, Movie Theater, hybrid library, and a few multi-purpose venues.

The theme of EXPO -2020 is already known - Global Reason, and, of course, first of all, it will find its reflection in the exposures of the theme and national pavilions; however, the authors of the concept wanted it to also show though in the outward appearance of the exhibition complex. For this purpose, as the key architectural image, a crystal was chosen - the jagged edges of the pavilions and the white color of their facades, according to ABD architects, will not only create the right associations but will also enhance the "Ural" origin of this "mineral". However, the design of the concrete objects of exhibition still belongs to the future, as the architects say, sincerely hoping to get to it after the positive resolution of the International Bureau of Exhibitions.

Text by: Boris Levyant, Boris Stuchebryukov, Tatiana Shovskaya
Translated by Anton Mizonov

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