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Interpretive architecture is misunderstood


How familiar it is to see the issue of narrative environments entirely overlooked through the process of architectural critique. The review of FOA's Spanish Pavilion at the Japanese Expo (AJ 28.4.05) merely continues the misconception that World Expositions are simply about the wrappers, even complaining that sustainable needs (recyclable sheds) enforce mere clip-on solutions. We are told in consequence that expos are dead and buried. While I may well agree with this proposition, I despair that the expo phenomenon is primarily perceived as 'unmissable showcases that exhibit emerging architectural tendencies'. All too often the importance of any intellectual narrative within the pavilions is sidelined. It is rarely of any consequence that spectacular structures contain dull, unimaginative exhibits and media.

Our concept for the UK pavilion will attract no reviews as it has spent its modest budget on art, ecology and communication media, as a direct response to the organiser's theme. The tin shed is left intentionally untouched, with the ultimate objective of encouraging visitors to value the contribution of the natural world in the development of science and technology. A book and website (my-earth. continue the communication process even beyond the site.

Indeed, the failure to understand the importance and complexity of 'interpretive architecture' stares us in the face here in the UK, where generous lottery funding in the cultural sector sometimes delivers landmark buildings that have no sympathy with internal functionality, visitor experience or financial sustainability.

Peter Higgins, Land Design Studio, Kew

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