spanish pavilion for shanghai 2010 image courtesy miralles tagliabue EMBT




miralles tagliabue EMBT has been awarded the prize for the top future project at the world architecture festival 09, for their design of the spanish pavilion. their project brings the traditional spanish craft of wicker basketwork up to date on the curves of a highly modern pavilion aiming to transform an old tradition into new life.


‘an expo is about national identity and about knowing and mixing’, says architect benedetta tagliabue. ‘so we would like some of the pavilion made in spain and some in china or asia. wicker technology is the same across the world’.

EMBT: spanish pavilion at shanghai expo 2010 image courtesy miralles tagliabue EMBT




since winning the competition to design and build spain’s pavilion at the 2010 shanghai expo in january 2007, EMBT has investigated lots of ways to create ‘vegetal’ structures, eventually settling on willow (salix). the research has taken EMBT to factories in germany and artisans in spain. ‘it is a very deep and beautiful craftsmanship’, tagliabue says. ‘it is an ancient skill and a magical world. they go through the complete process from harvesting to selling the wicker product’. pont de querós in barcelona has been involved in discussions and development prototypes from an early stage.

EMBT: spanish pavilion at shanghai expo 2010 model of the pavillion image courtesy miralles tagliabue EMBT




the design includes a series of panels, made of woven willow stems, to be hung as a skin from the bones of steel supports. tagliabue prefers a combination of easy-to-build, solid, and highly controlled steel structure and the hugely flexible wicker panels which will allow the complex geometry of the drawings to be realised. the pavilion is conceived as a series of baskets, some open at the top and some enclosed, creating a dappled light in courtyards, circulation and multipurpose spaces.


EMBT wanted to keep the junction between the steel frame and willow panels as simple as possible, especially as the panels are likely to have to be produced by different artisans, and the weave is being kept simple – the pattern based on the arrangement of panels. their design is based on different chinese characters. it will be impossible to read but for the subliminal text will talk about ‘maximum systems’ such as the moon, sun and sky. the colours of the wicker –from the red brown to white – will be achieved by the treatments it would naturally go though: stripping, maintaining the skin, or treating it to make it more durable.

EMBT: spanish pavilion at shanghai expo 2010 image © EMBT

EMBT: spanish pavilion at shanghai expo 2010 image © EMBT

EMBT: spanish pavilion at shanghai expo 2010 construction has begun for the pavilion image © EMBT