What makes a great Expo 2010 (Shanghai World’s Fair) pavilion? Fancy architecture? 4-D films? A giant, custom-built theater complete with a rotating movie screen? Yes, yes, and yes! – depending upon how each of those features is deployed within the pavilion.
But in the opinion of this blogger – your trusty, loyal Shanghai Scrap Expo blogger – nothing – and I mean nothing – guarantees World Expo pavilion greatness quite like a flying machine. And so, breaking this blog’s unstated rule that: The Blogger’s Face Shall Never Grace the Home Page – I give you Mr. Shanghai Scrap, enjoying an invited flight in the Aerodium-designed vertical wind tunnel at the heart of the beautiful and truly awesome Latvian Expo 2010 (World’s Fair) pavilion.
[UPDATE 6/19: The Expo Museum has posted a great video of the Aerodium in action.]
The theme of the Latvian pavilion is “Technology of Happiness,” and having now experienced that technology for myself, I feel perfectly comfortable telling my readers that the experience of “flying” on a vertical blast of air is not only a happy one, it’s unlike any sensation that I’ve ever experienced before. The blast of air itself is extraordinarily powerful and – at first – disorienting. Your legs arms curve above you, your back bows, and you really wonder if you’re just going to crash to the floor (padded). But once I had the hang of it, I quite suddenly felt like a speck of dust being tossed about on a sunbeam. In other words: technology of happiness, indeed. After the page jump, Shanghai Scrap several meters above the floor of the wind tunnel.
So why, you may ask, did Latvia choose to feature a wind tunnel at the heart of its Expo pavilion?
According to Ansis Egle, the pavilion’s communications director, and the man who invited me for a test flight, the choice was simple: the Latvian government wanted to feature “innovative entrepreneurship” at the six-month event, and the wind tunnel – manufactured and operated by 100% Latvian-owned Aerodium – was the natural choice. According to Egle, Aerodium is the global leader in vertical wind tunnels, featured at the 2006 Torino Olympics, and around the world.
As I noted a few weeks ago, Latvia’s pavilion was the last of the major Expo 2010 pavilions to open, after a break-neck five month build that began on December 26, 2009. It’s design – elegant, low-cost, and highly functional – is one of the Expo’s best. The 100,000 free hanging plastic tiles that cover it flutter in even the slightest breeze, giving it a gorgeous, shimmering quality.
On a daily basis it hosts roughly 10,000 visitors, or 800 per hour, who are ushered in, twice hourly, to watch an experienced crew of vertical wind tunnel acrobats performs flips and other tricks. And twice a week, those same acrobats perform a wind tunnel show atop the pavilion.
Visitors to the pavilion can sign up to win a flight (I recommend that you be in decent physical condition, with a strong back, before slip into your flight suit). But even if you don’t/can’t fly yourself, it’s absolutely worth visiting, anyway – Latvia’s pavilion – and the Aerodium – is one of the Expo’s most original and best spectacles. A must.