London-based Plasma Studio is completing its competition-winning project for the Xi’an International Horticultural Exposition 2011, which opens on April 28 and expects to host 12 million guests. Called “Flowing Gardens,” the project is a series of buildings and landscapes set along an axis to create a centerpiece to the 418-hectare site. The Expo lies outside the ancient capital of Xi’an in the newly formed Chan-Ba Ecological District where a once-flat landscape has been transformed with rolling hills and a man-made lake. According to Plasma Studio co-founder Holger Kehne, his firm’s design responds to this artificial place rather than to Xi’an’s history. “We’re trying to do something very contemporary, relating to the performance of the landscape itself,” while suggesting a historical connection to Chinese gardens, says Kehne.
Visitors to Flowing Gardens arrive at the Guangyuan Entrance, a tensile bridge structure developed with Arup, then move through a landscape designed with Plasma’s sister company, GroundLab. The next stop is the heart of the project, the Theme Pavilion, which is faced in locally made solid bronze sheets and offers views of an adjacent lake through windows in its finger-like wings. Finally visitors travel across the lake by boat to the Greenhouse, a conventional structure with a complex geometry.