The bureau won the commission for the design of the Dutch Pavilion for the World’s Fair in Seville in 1992 after a competition. Besides the exhibition spaces and rooms for receptions and performances, the building also had to provide space for personnel facilities, offices and technical installations.
To a large extent the design was determined by the large stream of people to be shepherded through the building. The stream of visitors was directed along a main route leading past the various exhibitions, via footbridges, three big ‘tunnels’ with rolling carpets and staircases. Anyone who wanted to know more about the objects displayed on the main route could visit the various exhibition spaces which led off from the main route and browse to their heart’s content. The route meanders along the building’s facade from the ground floor to the top floor. The chief route led via the themes of water and land to culture. On the uppermost floor there were paintings by the Dutch ‘Old Masters’ in glass display cases. From this top floor the visitors were brought back to the exit on the ground floor in one go via a big, long escalator in the middle of the building.
Seville’s arid climate was the deciding factor for the outward appearance of the pavilion. The guiding premise for the design was the principle of ‘desert cooling’, a technique applied on a smaller scale in the traditional jarrah (earthenware water pitcher) found in Arabian countries. The process of water evaporating through the porous wall of the pitcher draws energy in the form of heat from the water still in the pitcher. The pitcher thus keeps the water relatively cool. After being tested exhaustively, this principle was applied on the larger scale of the exhibition pavilion. The walls of the pavilion are made of open-weave fabric which is sprayed with water continuously. The constant wind blowing across the canvas disperses the water vapour. It is therefore a few degrees cooler inside the pavilion than on the outside.
The transparent canvas of the facade gives the exhibition building an eye-catching appearance. Visitors can peer inside through the wall during the day, while in the evening the lighting inside is diffused outside like a lantern.
The building was prefabricated entirely in the Netherlands. This made it possible to sidestep the overstretched construction industry in Spain, and work activities in Seville were kept to a minimum. The transportation from the Netherlands to Spain also had to be factored into the design of the building’s structure.
The building was kept as light as possible and can be completely dismantled. The main load-bearing structure is steel. Floors and walkways are constructed from double-T profile beams of prestressed concrete with a width of 2.40 metres. The roof consists of three sections built from steel roofing panels, together forming the tricolour of the flag of the Netherlands. Between these enclosing strips there are two inflated air cushions of plastic foil. On top, the foil is the colour of aluminium in order to best reflect the sunlight, while the foil on the underside of the air cushions is transparent. The air in the cushions also has an insulating effect.