EXPO 2000

“Holland creates Space”: the theme for the Netherlands Pavilion at the 2000 World Expo in Hanover was to showcase a country making the most out of limited space. Six stacked Dutch landscapes form an independent eco-system communicating cultural sustainability: progressive thinking and contemporary culture are combined with traditional values. The architecture suggests Dutch open-mindedness, while confirming the positive stereotypes of tulips, windmills and dykes.


Location: Hannover, Germany

Year: 1997-2000

Client:  Foundation Holland World Fairs, The Hague NL

Program: 8.000 m² exhibition pavilion

Budget: EUR 10.8 Million



Belmont Prize by the Forberg Schneider Stiftung 

Nomination for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award

Nomination for the World Architecture Awards as one of the five best buildings in the Northern area



The Netherlands is a densely populated country combining high standards of living with a great democratic tradition. It could well be the prime example of a country that has always had to (and knows how to) mold the natural environment to suit its needs. It’ is a country that time and time again has won more land from the sea. Perhaps in the near future extra space will be found not just by increasing the country'’s width but by expanding vertically. This kind of operation would seem to be applicable to many more countries. It raises questions of global significance.


Can increasing population densities coexist with an increase in the quality of life? What conditions should be satisfied before such increases in density take place? What role will nature, in the widest sense, play in such an increase in density? Is not the issue here “new nature,” literally and metaphorically? This kind of effort can be the Netherlands'’ specific contribution to the ecological spectrum of the World Fair in Hannover 2000, which seems to be devoted particularly to a nostalgic glimpse of ecology: a simple critique of technology and the consumer society, of asphalt and machinery. What the Dutch entry shows is precisely a mix of technology and nature, emphasizing nature'’s make-ability and artificiality: technology and nature need not be mutually exclusive, they can perfectly well reinforce one another.


Nature arranged on many levels provides both an extension to existing nature and an outstanding symbol of its artificiality. It provides multi-level public space as an extension to existing public spaces. And even by arranging existing programs on many levels it provides yet more extra space, at ground level, for visibility and accessibility, for the unexpected, for “nature.” Dividing up the space in the Dutch entry and arranging it on multiple levels surrounds the building with spatial events and other cultural manifestations. The building becomes a monumental multi-level park. It takes on the character of a happening.


The fact that this kind of building does not yet exist means that it also gets to function as a laboratory. It not only saves space, it also saves energy, time, water and infrastructure. A mini-ecosystem is created. It’s a survival kit. Of course, it also tests existing qualities: it attempts to find a solution for a lack of light and land. At the same time the density and the diversity of functions builds new connections and new relationships. It can therefore serve as a symbol for the multi-faceted nature of society: it presents the paradoxical notion that as diversity increases, so too might cohesion.



The 2000 Hannover World expo fair was not received with big enthusiasm. The number of visitors was much lower then expected and suggested in advance. Did it lack inspiration? The situation somewhere in the middle of Germany - a political choice; in the the center betweem West and the newly united East Germany - within a very provincial and moderate town did not help. It is perhaps not very attractive. There is no reason for it to be there. After the expo, the unemployment rate radically increased. People started to leave the region. Who, under such circumstances, can invest in the maintenance of the expo? Almost none of the buildings were re-used afterwards. Many of them were broken down. Except the Dutch Pavilion. Why? Had it indeed become a kind of monument? The Dutch pavilion remained as a solitary element within a landscape that resembled the fallout of a nuclear bomb. Fences were erected around the building. Lifts, trees and windmills were dismantled. Thousands of birds started to inhabit the vacant structure. Squatters (other birds) started to live in the floors. Party-seekers started to use the forest. It became a real park so to speak. This dystopia was not so bad. It became a ruin in the best German tradition. As in Heine’s poems or in Goethe’s memoires, a new ruin was born! We could already imagine a structure overgrown with ivy...the secret discussion on its future, found its current apocalypse in September 2005.  Finally it is for sale...on eBay.



Competition phase:

Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries

Philipp Oswalt, Joost Grootens, Christelle Gualdi, Eline Strijkers, Martin Young


Design phase:

Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries

Stefan Witteman, Jaap van Dijk, Christoph Schindler, Kristina Adsersen, Rüdiger Kreiselmayer



Structure: ABT, Velp NL

Services: Technical Management, Amersfoort NL

Building physics: DGMR, Arnhem and GRBV, Hannover DE

Facilitary Office: ABT-Bouwkunde, Rotterdam NL

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