Dream Cube at the World Expo 2010

Building better cities for the future is part of the theme of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Integral to this is the idea of transformation. One building in particular caught my attention. Designed by ESI Design, the 40,000 square-foot Shanghai Corporate Pavilion opens tomorrow May 1st 2010, and is known as the “Dream Cube.”

It really must be seen to be believed. Thankfully that’s possible via the preview video below that also explains the experience for visitors who are encouraged to interact with the amazing system of LED lights everywhere. People inside the building clapping their hands louder, faster, slower, whatever the change, actually cause the lights to glow and pulse accordingly.

Shanghai Corporate Pavilion Dream Cube

Principal designer Edwin Schlossberg was inspired by the story of Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi who woke from a deep sleep, and was not sure if he was Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Transformation.

“The Dream Cube leads visitors through a beautiful story of the city’s past, present and future. The experience also transforms moment-by-moment via the spectators’ collective participation. Crowd-sourced photos uploaded by the public at the Dream Cube website blend with stunning video on immense media walls. Beds of glowing LED crystalline reeds change color with the sweep of visitors’ hands. A 360-degree interactive theater showcases the audience’s gestures and physical actions, which trigger dramatic changes to millions of LED lights on the Dream Cube’s façade.” It’s really wild to see some of the video footage of all this. I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually experience it directly.

One thing the video does not do however, is extol the many environmental virtues of this unique building. “The impressive exterior structure is composed of hundreds of polycarbonate transparent recycled plastic tubes formed into a grid-like matrix. Recycled from used CD cases, the polycarbonate tubes will be able to be recycled again at the end of the building’s life.” What a great use, reuse, and use yet again for a bunch of plastic.

“Energy will be collected through a 1,600 sq meter solar thermal energy system of heat collecting tubes on the roof. This system will heat water up to 95ºF and will be used to generate electricity through ultra-low temperature power generation, which is similar to power generation from low-temperature geothermal reservoirs. This energy will be used for the both the exposition as well as every day power needs.”

There’s also a misting system spraying in “various patterns under the entrance ceiling” that both adds to the dreamlike feel of the Pavilion, and helps moderate the temperature and purify the air for visitors. Even better, the “mist and some water use[d] inside the building will come from collected rainwater, which will be treated for sedimentation and then filtered and stored.” More transformation. Dream Cube seems a very fitting name in many ways.

So neat to have so many individuals come together who all act individually, but who collectively transform this mini-world. What’s been described as “this gentle immersion.” Continuing the transformation theme, the video mentions how when visitors first look at the building from the outside, they don’t realize what’s causing or controlling all those pulsing, multi-coloured lights.

It’s only after they journey through the Dream Cube that they realize, “They were the ones who made that happen themselves.” Of course now the secret’s out. But is sure sounds like it could be another metaphor for life. Or maybe it’s just a really cool building. Maybe it’s both.

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