No spectacular building, no glitter and no glamour. The Dutch pavilion at the Shanghai Expo is conspicuous in its simplicity. And today there’s increased interest in it. Because it’s Holland Day, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima will be present. The Chinese dancer Wun Sze recently toured the Dutch exhibit. She’s a member of the Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague and knows both cultures.
One thing strikes Wun Sze about the Dutch design straight away: compared to the other pavilions, it’s so open. That means visitors can see the other buildings, and the long queues in front of them. The English pavilion has a bristly exterior; the box-like blocks belong to the Germans. The theme of the Shanghai Expo is ‘Better City, Better Life’.
"It is very open here, very refreshing. I think there's a big difference because most of the pavilions are indoors. Here, much is outdoors. I think the architect of this Dutch pavilion is very fair, very reasonable. It's a bit different from the Chinese. We exaggerate a little bit how it should be. For me, in the Netherlands, people are quite daring. We should get used to it.”
In ‘Happy Street’ – the name given to the Dutch pavilion - architect John Körmeling has created an entire street, with 26 little houses with windows visitors can peep through. He wants to offer his vision of the ideal city that might exist on a trade route. Wun Sze calls the Dutch approach daring. She thinks the Chinese will definitely have to get used to such a style.
The Chinese visitors stroll gently along the meandering street. It’s not only the houses, but also the view that’s a crowd puller.
In one house there’s an old-fashioned barrel organ, in another the modern furniture of Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, and next to that a design from the Technical University in Delft: a car that runs on solar energy
Can the Chinese visitors to Happy Street fully appreciate its simplicity? A young man taking photos reacts positively:
“It’s just like a fairy tale. And it’s something children can understand.”
A woman taking pictures, mainly of the Dutch hosts, doesn’t miss the glitter and glamour:
“It offers a realistic picture of the Netherlands, how people live there. The staff are very friendly. Dutch people are very good-looking.”
Wun Sze is used to Dutch taste. She also sees the simplicity and innovative character reflected in dance.
“I have been living in the Hague, the Netherlands, for two years. It's the same in dance: the innovative, challenging motivation. It's all around, also in dance culture in The Netherlands.”
The real attraction at the Dutch pavilion is the green field dotted with statues of sheep. People sit on them. Children play on them. And with French fries and a waffle stand just around the corner, it’s also a good place for a picnic.
Wun Sze orders a waffle in Dutch. Because with all the kilometres you cover visiting the Shanghai Expo, you definitely work up an appetite.
This evening, Wun Sze will perform with the Netherlands Dance Theatre in Shanghai’s large auditorium. Crown Prince Willem Alexander and Princess Máxima will attend the performance.