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View of the Belgian pavilion, still in the early spring. ©NG-Lab
It's been a while since World Expo in Dubai now, but did you know there is also such a thing as an international horticultural expo? Every 10 years since 1960, the Netherlands has organised Floriade, the ideal opportunity to showcase horticulture, including flowers and trees.
Think of it as a cross between the Floralies of Ghent and a World Expo, but with more attention to fruit and vegetables. At the Floriade, various countries are also showing off their impressive pavilions.
Growing Green Cities
This year, the Floriade Expo will take place in Almere, the youngest city in the Netherlands (° 1976), a stone's throw from Amsterdam, 5.5 m below sea level. Today, the municipality already has over 210,000 inhabitants; by 2030, it could be as many as 350,000.
Cities are booming all over the world. By 2050, as much as 68% of the world's population could be living in cities, on only 2% of the Earth's total surface. Not a bad thing in itself if we want to leave more room for nature, but how do we keep these cities liveable? With so many people packed together and with unstoppable climate change that will hit cities extra hard. Consider the heat island effect: due to the massive presence of stone and concrete, cities become many degrees hotter than the countryside during a heat wave.
The theme of Floriade Expo 2022 is therefore highly topical: Growing Green Cities. If we want to keep cities liveable and fun, they must be green. At Floriade, you can discover in detail how we can do that.
The Floriade Expo focuses on 4 sub-themes. Besides Greening the City (which trees and plants fit?), there is also a focus on Feeding the City: can forestry and urban agriculture play a role, or artificially produced food? With Healthying the City, the expo shows the quest for clean air, clean soil and clean water. Finally, Energising the City shows how we can generate, store and save energy.
View of the inner garden of the Belgian pavilion. ©NG-Lab
A Belgian pavilion as a manifesto
Belgium is already on hand with an extremely sustainable pavilion. The Yvoir-based firm Nicolas Godelet Architects & Engineers came up with a playful design along the lines of the Belgian garden. You can follow a sensory trail that includes edible plants such as marshmallow, red basil, lovage, nasturtium and wallflower.
The building itself illustrates several Belgian solutions. For example, cross-laminated timber (CLT) was used that is fully recyclable, either for reuse in another building or for use as furniture. In addition, the walls and tiles of the courtyard were made of compressed, non-baked stones from earth. The walls were lined with clay that children are welcome to touch.
For the lighting fixture and the flexible walls, the firm used bioplastic based on algae starch. Finally, high-performance, durable glass was used as it contains an argon vacuum between inner and outer glass to prevent heat loss. And a small layer of silver on the outer glass blocks infrared radiation, but does let in the visible spectrum. Doing things this way avoids overheating.
In short, a pavilion as a manifesto. It aims to make the public aware of the central role architecture plays in a world that needs to be rebuilt. All the materials are fully reusable or biodegradable. Without human intervention, the pavilion could decompose naturally.
China puts the versatile bamboo in the spotlight. © Floriade Expo 2022
Bamboo Garden and Satoyama
Of course, there are numerous other fascinating pavilions as well. China came up with a poetic bamboo garden and building. India is demonstrating a ‘spiritual path of connection with nature’, while Japan is revealing its traditional ecological lifestyle of Satoyama. Satoyama refers to an area around towns and villages that consists of farmland, irrigation ponds, forests and grasslands.
France is combining smart innovations with simple solutions, such as an innovative solar roof. The host country, the Netherlands, is illustrating what can be done with bio-based, local materials. The United Arab Emirates is focusing on the interface between land and sea.
The 60-acre site where the expo is taking place will also be recycled! After all, when the expo is over, the Floriade site will be developed into the green and healthy urban district of Hortus. An urban neighbourhood of the future, the organisers say.
The organisation of the Belgian pavilion is in the hands of BelExpo (FPS Economy), who also took care of our presence at the World Expo in Dubai. But the FPS Foreign Affairs also played its part. For example, both the headquarters and our embassy in The Hague participated in the steering committee meetings. Our staff were involved in the choice of site and in the development of 10 permanent panels on Belgian innovations. And they provided the co-ordination with the regions and communities.
Floriade Expo 2022 is strongly recommended for all those who love things that bloom and grow, as well as for those who are concerned about the future of the planet and want to find some inspiration. By the way, you can also go there for good food, theatre and art. Floriade Expo 2022 is still open for viewing until 9 October 2022. The site is easily accessible by public transport.