Botanic Garden of International Horticultural Exposition 2019
URBANUS Architecture & Design
The Botanic Garden is one of the four major pavilions in the 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exposition. During the event, it was a public favorite and received millions of visitors. The theme of this pavilion’s exhibition is “the incredible intelligence of the plants”, which demonstrates how human beings could learn from plants to coexist with the Earth under today’s various natural disasters. In order to arouse visitors’ interest and curiosity, the exterior of the building conveys its internal functions: the leveled roof line is metaphorical of a rising horizon and the pendant metal tubes hanging down from it mimic the roots of a mangrove tree, an endangered species in China’s southeast coastal area. The hanging roots form a mysterious veil surrounding the botanical garden, functionally providing shades for visitors, while creating a space where wonderment turns tedious queuing into an exciting time of photography and admiration of the facade.
Passing the queuing area, one is invited into the exhibition by a multi-media show about mangroves programmed by teamLab. Visitors then encounter real mangroves immediately as they enter the greenhouse. Indeed, the analogy between the pendant roots on the façade and the mangrove roots renders the building itself, not merely its content, a medium through which public attention is called to ecological protection.
With unique designs of circulation and spatial sequences, this project allows visitors to learn about the lives of plants, including their reproduction, defense, and cross-pollination. First, following a meandering upward path that threads itself among the trees, visitors are directed to examine the plants from their roots to their top. Passing through the treetops, the major route leads the audience back to an indoor exhibition area and eventually reaches the rooftop pavilion that functions as a bookstore, a gift shop, and a café. The rooftop terrace provides visitors with a panoramic view of the entire Expo campus.
The three-dimensionality of this route makes the space rich and layered. The indoor area is approximate 3,000 square meters, but it feels as if it were double the size. Additionally, the route’s vertical movement allows visitors to observe species from different habitats at different elevations: tropical plants on the humid ground level and desert plants at the dry upper level. Thanks to the spatial arrangement, these presentations and views could be squeezed into the project’s limited exhibition space, giving visitors abundant information about exotic plants while creating an immersive experience full of wonder.
The tube roots, a key element of design, employ major innovations of digital technology in its implementation. The repetitive comparative studies required to achieve an optimal artistic effect lead to a dynamic design process in which the parametric design method is the most suitable. Parametric design is not only able to account for the tubes’ differences in their complex group of parameters, such as length and diameter, that are impossible to define through conventional methods, but also flexibly adapt to frequent changes. Here, digital technology gives a full display of its advantages.
The tube roots, furthermore, give rise to elements of design that challenge the conventional greenhouse typology. Indoor botanical gardens are traditionally all-glass to provide maximum sunlight. However, the tube root facade, as well as the rooftop terrace, reduces exposure to natural light. To overcome this difficulty, plants are arranged according to their lighting needs after scientific calculation. Moreover, larger coverage on the facade results in increased insulation, resolving problems of heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. This project thus breaks the myth that conservatories must be all glass.
Besides creating a new typology for indoor botanical gardens, this project has various other points of significant innovation. It is the first instance of large-scale indoor mangrove planting in China’s Northern area, which is made possible by the simulation of tides using two pools. Furthermore, the distribution of species at different height levels to meet their respective humidity requirements creates a one-of-a-kind scene where plants from desert and tropical habitats exist in the same space. These technical innovations are notable contributions to the field of conservatory design. This project therefore has considerable referential importance for future projects.
After the end of the International Horticultural Exposition, the Botanic Garden continues its operation due to its popularity and excellent functionality. Having received more than 2.5 million visitors in half a year, it has been proved that the visitors love its rich space and various programs. The sustainability considerations, the attention to the comfort of both humans and plants, and the immersive experience that is both unique and informational—all these are distinctive characteristics of the project that contributes to its long-term enjoyment by the public. The building is not planned for a temporary show only, but for an evergreen venue of year-round events and daily scientific education.