Metamorphosis of the Expo Pavilion

Expano is an example of a successful architectural metamorphosis of a temporary pavilion into a permanent, sustainable building. With its new content and urban regeneration of a former gravel pit into a tourist area for recreation and sport, the project contributes to the recognisability of the region and places this example in Slovenia shoulder to shoulder with contemporary tourist information centres around Europe.

Photo: Matjaž Očko

Photo: Matjaž Očko

There are very few who would disagree that pavilions were one of the most avant-garde types of building in the early 20th century, when they were being developed by some of the most prominent Modernist architects, from Mies to Le Corbusier. In the new millennium, pavilions have once again become an architectural topic. International projects, such as the national pavilions in world exhibitions and the annual pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery in London, have made building pavilions popular again, changing these often modest, temporary structures into “objects of desire”. Yet very few contemporary pavilions achieve the radicalism and breakthrough character of their 20th century predecessors, for their context and function have changed significantly.

Nowadays, pavilions are above all aesthetised objects, using architecture as a means for the promotion of a brand. Even the Expano pavilion was originally designed to promote Slovenia as a mountainous tourist destination at the Expo 2015 in Milan. It belonged neither to the most remarkable nor the most innovative ones, and it did not receive any of the numerous prizes awarded by different institutions and magazines.[1] But that is just as well. In the company of flashing wonders it simply tried to stand out from the other pavilions and turn the spotlight on its client – the small Italian neighbour, Slovenia – by shouting somewhat less loudly than the others.

After six months the exhibition was closed down, yet the journey of our pavilion did not end there. Through the project of renovation, in which its potential was carefully re-examined and re-evaluated, it rose again like a phoenix from the ashes. By assuming a new role, that of the Gates to Pomurje, it has found a new life on the outskirts of Murska Sobota. It now stands on the location of a former gravel pit in the park next to the lake, not as a modernist object but rather as a contemporary interpretation of the 18th century English park pavilions. Inserted into an undulating landscape it has become a tourist information centre with a new park for sports and recreation on the outskirts of the town. Its seesaw silhouette is drawn against the vast Prekmurje sky and reflects in the blue of the lake, while walkers with their dogs and prams, along with runners and cyclists, circle underneath.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expo_2015_pavilions

Photo: Janez Martinčič

Photo: Janez Martinčič

Photo: Uroš Lobnik

Photo: Uroš Lobnik

Photo: Uroš Lobnik

Photo: Uroš Lobnik

The complete article is published in Autumn 2020 issue of Piranesi No. 42-43/Vol. 28.

Subscribe to printed magazine.

Project Data

Architecture
SoNo arhitekti: Edvard Blažko, Marko Volk, Nejc Batistič, Nina Tešanović, Samo Radinja, Tomaž Bavdež
Year of completion: 2019
Nett building area: 800 m²
Exhibition concept and Interior
AU arhitekti: Uroš Lobnik, Andreja Podlipnik
Main contractor: Lumar IG d.o.o., Pomgrad d.d.
Structure: CBD d.o.o., EBS d.o.o.