Denmark Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010 / BIG


The Shanghai Expo 2010 has opened its doors, and we start to see how the pavilions evolved from the previews we saw during design/construction phases at ArchDaily, to become a showcase of the current status of architecture from around the world.

The Denmark Pavilion was one of the first ones we presented you, almost a year ago. The project, designed by BIG with ARUP and 2+1, was interesting not only from an architectural and structural point of view, but also for the danish spirit it represents.

Basically, the pavilion is a loop on which visitors ride around on one of the 1,500 bikes available at the entrance, a chance to experience the Danish urban way. At the center of the pavilion there’s a pool with fresh water from Copenhagen’s harbor (one of the most clean in the world), on which visitors can even swim.

© Iwan Baan

At the center of the pool you will find The Little Mermaid, a statue that has become a symbol for Denmark. And this time, it will be moved temporarily to China. In Bjarke Ingels words “it is considerably more resource efficient moving The Little Mermaid to China, than moving 1.3 billion Chinese to Copenhagen”.

After the break, more images of the completed pavilion by arch photographer Iwan Baan, including Bjarke Ingels himself riding a bike on the circular loop:

The pavilion is a monolithic structure in white painted steel which keeps it cool during the Shanghai summer sun due to its heat-reflecting characteristics. The roof is covered with a light blue surfacing texture, known from Danish cycle paths. Inside, the floor is covered with light epoxy and also features the blue cycle path where the bikes pass through the building. The steel of the facade is perforated in a pattern that reflects the actual structural stresses that the pavilion is experiencing making it a 1:1 stress test.

“Sustainability is often misunderstood as the neo-protestant notion “that it has to hurt in order to do good”. “You’re not supposed to take long warm showers – because wasting all that water is not good for the environment” or “you’re not supposed to fly on holidays – because airtraffic is bad for the environment”. Gradually we all get the feeling that sustainable life simply is less fun than normal life. If sustainable designs are to become competitive it can not be for purely moral or political reasons – they have to be more attractive and desirable than the non-sustainable alternative. With the Danish Pavilion we have attempted to consolidate a handful of real experiences of how a sustainable city – such as Copenhagen – can in fact increase the quality of life”,

- Bjarke Ingels

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

PROJECT: Danish Pavilion at the EXPO 2010
SIZE: 3.000m2
COLLABORATORS: 2+1, Arup AGU, Arup Shanghai, Tongji Design Institute, Ai Wei Wei, Jeppe Hein, Martin De Thurah, Peter Funch
LOCATION : Shanghai, China

Architect: BIG
Creative Director: Bjarke Ingels
Partner-in-Charge: Finn Norkjaer
Team: Tobias Hjortdahl, Jan Magasanik, Claus Tversted, Henrick Poulsen, Niels Lund Petersen, Kamil Szoltysek, Sonja Reisinger, Anders Ulsted, Jan Borgstrom, Pauline Lavie, Teis Draiby, Daniel Sundlin, Line Gericke, Armen Menendian, Karsten Hammer Hansen, Martin W. Mortensen, Kenneth Sorensen, Jesper Larsen, Anders Tversted

View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Denmark Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010 / BIG" 03 May 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • cathode

    great job BIG!
    this is an amzing piece of architecture!!!

    • bjarke ingels


  • Formula

    Amazing… there`s no other word

    • bjarke ingels

      Thank you !

  • nka

    in general, i think of this as a great idea, especially for the “pavilion” scheme.
    however, it seems to me that the linear space ends up being a little bit boring sometimes -no further resolution has been thought of perhaps?

    the “perfect curve” is also not well constructed, I guess this is due to a fast construction process (I don’t know if in China construction lacks quality most of the time?).

    the structural scheme is fantastic! has anyone found any more information on that?

    • ted

      true what takes 4 years in Europe to finish the construction takes only 1 years in China, and what lasts 400 years in Europe lasts 10 years or alike in China.

      • nka

        well, if it’s meant to last 6 months it’s ok I guess…
        I still think all those neat curves in paper suck in real life, not neat at all… definitely a construction problem.

      • Ruiyi Xu

        Thanks, n 400 yrs back before probably aliens could construct a building project such like St. Peter’s in 4 yrs?

        St Peter 1506-1626; Forbidden City 1406-1420.

        Others, building conservation policy difference? :-)

  • robledo duarte

    Good architecture needs no words, that´s the case….

  • that’s what she

    so sexy!

    • bjarke ingels

      Ow yes I am!

  • joey

    looks more Japanese super future then danish…
    so whats the taking the place of the mermaid back in cph ?
    also i thought a rasterized image of the city was going to be on the facade ?

    • Tuf Pak

      Chinese artist/provocateur Ai Wei Wei has designed a video installation that is in the harbor.

      I haven’t seen it…but i’m assuming that after his detention and beating by Sichuan “thugs” he’s probably not being too confrontational with it.

  • carlos

    great, great, great pavilion. to me, is by far the best, but …

    i think it looks better in the renderings and diagrams, as opposed to the finished building. i’ve lost something in the images.

    i think that the facade holes perhaps may not have the same impact than in the renders.

  • carlos

    anyway, amazing job BIG.

  • plots

    what happened to the city facade?

  • smartwoodhouse

    BIG不负众望,丹麦馆的建成效果非常惊艳,远远超出效果图的表现。手头有一本Bjarke ingels的著作《YES IS MORE》,来一起看看他怎样用建筑连环画的形式对这个建筑进行解说。

  • leon

    wow ,whiter & brighter than i thought.

  • gerson1

    Nice job’but how it reflects Denmark?

    • kim

      it has free bikes and a mermaid ;)
      does anyone know if this pavilion is permanent or not ?

      • tedad

        all pavilions except for the four main pavilions related to china are to be demolished after the expo

    • Bruno Orlando
      • Sanjeev Sabharwal

        Yeah Bruno, that’s a really great talk!

      • Maciej

        Lol! I’m loving his “Schwarzenegger like” accent. Priceless :)

    • Sanjeev Sabharwal

      I think it’s mainly the cycle path and the Little Mermaid

  • H

    It has nice moments but it has way too much white and no nice details, looks like the physical models he always presents just got scale in size but not in details. In addition the skin looks dull. It sounds nice that “the steel of the facade is perforated in a pattern that reflects the actual structural stresses” but the result is not that impressive or stunning. I assume the perforations with the skyline of the city didn’t work? Overall I do like it because of the concept, but the final product is just hard to digest after seeing the renders and diagrams earlier. If you get to see images of the construction process they are great by the way. Thanks for the images AD

  • Pedro

    A nice tribute to Siza and his project in S.Paulo, fundação Iberê Camargo. But this is the good thing in architecture, references and RE-Invention.
    Nice project!

    • abe

      Tribute to Siza, really??? Come on…
      Ah, and Ibere Camargo is from Porto Alegre, not S. Paulo!

  • Pedro

    And Niemeyer of course!

  • roo

    you people are strange… please explain what’s so great about this pavilion? i would rate the Brazilian pavilion of superior quality than this pedestrian attempt to build a diagram…. it exposes how rubbish the whole idea really was in the first place….

  • Carlos

    Is this a fetishism, that we want building to look like renderings? in that sense architecture is all about the image?

    • jacob

      or about honesty…

    • JNK

      the renderings are supposed to show how the architecture will look like. I don´t understand what is wrong about a building that looks like it was meant to and, also, especially this project (as well as the most of BIG projects) is not only about the image, but about the idea. And find the schematic look fresh and playful.

    • op

      I beleave that renders are part of the analysis. If in the first step of designing you had an image and it remained the same, that means that you wasn’t working with the project enough. All projects should change when you start working more detail it’s part of the process. what about models? should they show final result, or analyse the idea and help to develop it? I beleave that only commercial developers can make renders in “how it will be” style.
      sorry for my english

  • jw

    the mermaid looks a little bit out of place. but i mean of course, cause it is, but still it looks just a bit weird.

    but i’m guessing the pavilion is still partly unfinished since its all white and everything.

  • sandra

    I did like the idea, but now that its build it does dissapoint me. So many handrails, facade isn’t good, its a bit bouring that the walkpath inside and on the roof is the same, not surprising to enter… the statue isn’t interesting, I lived 6 years in brussels before i saw “manneke pis”. Anyway, Uk pavilion is the best

  • ryan

    why is anyone asking how it reflects denmark?
    sure it’s a new aesthetic, but are they supposed to be building vernacular?

    The entire building is about denmark because of the focus on the bikes, the idea that you ride to other pavilions on your danish bike (which is a big part of danish life). And then you have the mermaid and the water,

    id say it reflects its own culture better than any pavilion i’ve seen. I like the british pavilion, but how does it reflect british culture? its hairy?

    • Sanjeev Sabharwal

      Yeah Ryan, you seem to be the only person who gets the idea! It’s all about cycling and the mermaid!

  • asterix

    the most wonderfull creation of past decade!!!

  • jijigua

    nice, I like it.

  • Ales

    not bad but I think it would be great in BRICKWORK :)

    • sam


      making a irregular shape building?
      you should go back uni to study again about the materials

      • Travis

        Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal – especially St. Mary’s Cathedral in Red Deer, AB. Maybe be a bit nicer with the comments instead of slagging off.

      • Tuf Pak

        Oh, is that true? Don’t tell that to Eladio Dieste.

  • Vitali

    Very impressive job.
    Looks even better than in presentation.
    Well done Bjarke!

  • op

    I like mermaid, and the scale I think is corect, cause it shows real size. First time when I visited Copenhagen, I was walking near water and hoping to see that sculpture. But when I finaly reached her, I was shocked how small she is. That tiny sculpture in the big, white, strange space responds to my impresion, and how fragile it looks… nice

  • Travis

    Regardless about the brickwork – which I don’t agree would make this project better – I do think that it feels a bit too plastic – seemingly created in all one material. Expediency?

  • biboarchitect

    I wish I am Iwan Baan!! he is traveling across the globe after such incredible buildings.

  • hug-o-mermaid

    On1 May, the 3 bosses from BIG surpised the local security staff. They took off their shirts and pants and jumped into the pool:

    Old B got really close up to the statue also and realized a personal dream:

  • Wayne Huang

    The little mermaid’s new temp home, quiet and shining like a mirror, takes me back into a childhood’s dream;
    The spiral bike lane – humble, green, and beautiful – leads me to the lovely Danish land;
    The gently curved design with white and blue tone, penetrating time and space, bridges me into the future.
    This pavilion is the one i like the most.

  • Soupdragon

    Isn’t it just another version of Olafur Eliasson and Kjetl Thorsen’s Serpentine Pavillion from a couple of years ago? Except not as interesting.