Dismantling

Expo.02 was conceived from the outset as a temporary exhibition. The Confederation, the host cantons and the municipalities therefore used the full range of planning law instruments to ensure that everything would disappear without a trace once the celebrations were over. Years before the start of construction, the total dismantling was already regulated in neighbourhood plans, building permits and in the contracts with general contractors and additionally secured with bank guarantees as well as being peppered with draconian environmental protection requirements.

The creators of Expo.02 were thus relieved of the burden of having to allow the architecture to live on in a mutated form after the summer of the exhibition, whether as an urban neighbourhood (World Expo Seville 1992), as a multi-purpose space (Millennium Dome London 2000) or as exhibition halls (World Expo Hanover 2000). Ironically enough, it was the Swiss sense of order that demanded the planning verdict without a trace into the future. But it was precisely this renunciation of subsequent utilisation that made the great freedom of design and thus the architectural flights of fancy possible in the first place. 

And the buildings met with a broad and positive response - as soon as Expo.02 opened - despite years of conflict in the run-up to the event. And the closer the end of the Expo approached on 20 October 2002, the greater the interest in conservation became, the more requests and demands were received to at least preserve the icons. Suddenly they were to remain standing, the towers with the Helix Bridge in Biel-Bienne, the Monolith in Murten-Morat, the Cloud in Yverdon-les-Bains or the Galets and the Palais d'Equilibre in Neuchâtel. As unrealistic as these wishes were, they showed the identification with the Expo.02 architecture. However, the Expo.02 buildings were not subject to the same conditions as the Eiffel Tower or the memorabilia of glorious world exhibitions in Seville, Lisbon or London. From the outset, the four Arteplages were located in the most attractive recreational areas of the respective towns. The lakeshore areas are protected by construction bans. Definitive licences for the temporary Expo buildings cannot be obtained, or only with lengthy rezoning decisions. And because dismantling was stipulated in the contracts from the outset, it would be necessary to cancel cascading contracts. 

The experimental, prototypical architecture was also only built as a temporary solution. For cost reasons in particular, many of the buildings were only backdrop constructions. Iron constructions were not treated against rust. The consistent optimisation for a limited lifespan of 159 exhibition days made any subsequent use considerably more difficult. The platforms in the lakes were not designed for a longer service life and changing loads due to climatic fluctuations. Life-extending measures would have required massive interventions, including refoundations below the frost line or the use of protective and insulating materials. And because the buildings were completed within tight budgets, there were no financial reserves for subsequent investments. Apart from the fact that such subsequent improvements sometimes cost more than the construction itself.

Ruedi Rast, Directeur Technique, Architecture.Expo.02, 2003

Dismantling