Like Luxembourg, Russia, and Canada, Germany presents visitors with an origami-like pavilion that says more about its time than its place. While these buildings do not endow the Shanghai Expo with a unified aesthetic such as the Beaux-Arts architecture of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, they do comment on what the international style of 2010 might be.

Of these pavilions, Germany’s stands out not only for its long entry queue but for its design. Its title, “Balancity,” is meant to describe the form of the building, four visually out-of-balance volumes that combine to create a single, unified composition (or so architects Schmidhuber + Kaindl claim). “Balancity” could just as easily refer to the compromised solutions that this pavilion and many others offer in representing their official cultures. An impossibly balanced 6,000-square-meter building may draw architecture buffs, but most visitors to the German pavilion, of course, want to see castles and lederhosen. So the German authorities give the people what they want—on the path weaving through the folded, modern structure. Walking through the twisting inner portion of the building, visitors stroll past “postcards” of picturesque city views and can take photos of castles with a live “princess.” After completing this nostalgic circuit, they make their way inside, through an exhibition maze crammed with the latest German innovations, from urban design to sneaker design. One hopes they take away some new ideas of German design prowess. But more likely they will take away a beer stein from the gift shop.