An architect is, by definition, a designer of buildings, right? Well, the government of Canada, a nation whose credo is “peace, order and good government”, has, in all its wisdom, entrusted the architectural design of the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai–the theme of which is “Better City, Better Life”–to the Cirque du Soleil. Officially, Cirque du Soleil is the “producer” of the Canada Pavilion and its cultural program, the theme of which is “The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable, Creative”. No competition was held to select the pavilion’s architect, producer or whatever, but to its credit the Cirque did in turn issue an open invitation to artists and creators to apply to be included in the pavilion’s cultural program, so even though the building isn’t architect-designed, there is still hope that at least some of the content to be exhibited inside will be.
Looks like the government body in charge of expo pavilions, Canadian Heritage, couldn’t be bothered to launch an architectural competition for the design of the building, preferring instead a turnkey contract for the whole shebang: design, construction, and content. And who better to hand it over to than the Cirque du Soleil, one of the greatest and most successful shows on earth? What’s the difference anyway between a circus tent and a national pavilion at an expo, both of which are ephemeral structures? It’s the spectacle inside that matters, n’est ce pas?
There are two worldwide tendencies in which Canada is at the very forefront: the ban on smoking and the building of bland cities. The design of the Canada Pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai reflects this perfectly.