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Printed fabric at 2010 Shanghai Expo world’s fair

News | November 1, 2011 | By:

Digitally printed fabric façade brought traditional culture and colors to life at the Estonia Pavilion.

As with most temporary exhibitions at an international fair, it is a delicate balance between building a substantive expression of a nation’s industry and culture and creating a structure that is economical to construct. More and more, designers of these events have turned to lightweight, yet durable fabrics to give full range to their creative designs. Case in point is the Estonia Pavilion, designed by Allianss Arhitektid, Tallinn, Estonia, that wraps the building with colorful patterns and designs inspired by traditional national women’s costumes from different parishes throughout the country.

“As the pavilion was erected only for six months,” says Priit Hamer, architect and member of the Estonian Expo design team, “we used sections of printed textile put on very simple metal shapes.” The design for the enclosure of the pavilion is surprisingly simple: irregularly shaped vertical panels formed from steel channels are fitted against a plain, box of a building to make a façade somewhat like overlapping vertical siding. Bends in the vertical edges and bulges outward from the façade add 3-D interest. Color and pattern are printed by dye sublimation on the PVC-coated polyester Soltis® 86 mesh fabric (Serge Ferrari) and stretched taut over the frames and fastened simply with flathead screws. The mesh provides micro-ventilation and allows outward visibility to visitors inside.

According to Hamer, all the printing was supervised by the architects at a local Shanghai print shop. “We had 12 printed samples made and from these we chose the correct colors—bright, shiny, sunny—to have put into production for the pavilion. We stylized the printed designs a little,” says Hamer, “and added a little extra with national patterns.”

The resultant venue projects a strong identity, incorporating external visual impact with internal comfort.

Bruce Wright is editor of Fabric Architecture, a publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International, and contributing editor of Fabric Graphics.

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